Lawmakers hear debate to alter laws to deter teens from sexting

DENVER -- Since 2015 when Cañon City High School was in the national spotlight over a widespread teenage sexting scandal, Colorado lawmakers have been trying to better address the unpopular trend.

Last year, they failed to reach consensus, but on Tuesday, supporters returned with a different bill that they hope will pass.

At issue is what law should be on the books to deter teenagers from sexting.

In Cañon City, prosecutors ultimately decided not to charge anyone because their only choice was a felony -- which would have forced many teens to register as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.

Two bills were heard in front of the House Judiciary Committee. The first bans teens from sharing other teens' nude pictures without consent. The second bans teens from possessing any sexually explicit images from other teens.

In both cases, the penalty would be minor and cases would be handled in juvenile court, which would equate to something like a traffic ticket.

"In a high school relationship, it becomes normal to send nude photos to a significant other," said Jordyn Monnin, a high school senior and founder of Abash the Past.

"When a guy gets his first nude, they are likely to share it with members of the football team or friends or elsewhere, and that's when we see the trouble."

Cañon City School District superintendent George Welsh is supporting the move.

"I see a need for something to happen between nothing and a felony for kids that are doing this," Welsh said.

Still, some groups, including civil liberty organizations, have expressed concerns with banning expression.

"You have the right to say whatever you want or send whatever you want," said Brooke, a 23-year-old college student.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the measure later in the week.