Howard board approves new sexting ordinance
By Kevin Boneske
HOWARD – After having two weeks earlier tabled a measure because it contained too vague of wording for the intended purpose, the Howard village board adopted an ordinance Monday, July 22, to prohibit minors from sending obscene or sexually explicit electronic messages, also known as sexting.
Village Administrator Paul Evert said the original measure was reviewed by the village prosecutor, Elizabeth Kremer Flanigan, who agreed it wouldn’t accomplish what the school liaison officer wanted.
Evert said Kremer Flanigan suggested adopting the wording from an ordinance used in Kaukauna.
“The other alternative would be, in all likelihood, to adopt the child pornography possession statute in the state,” he said. “It’s written a little differently, because it refers to nudity as lewd, and I didn’t really know if we wanted to require our municipal judge to have to worry if something were lewd or not. What we’re really worried about is kids being more silly, and unfortunately nowadays if someone makes a bad decision and sends a photograph of themselves nude, it can often be texted around to hundreds of kids really rapidly. That was really more the behavior we’re talking about.”
Evert previously informed the board about the school liaison officer having asked Howard to add a provision in state law among the offenses into the village code to be able to apply to the middle school, pointing out an ordinance related to sexting is already on the books in Suamico, where the high school is located.
Trustee John Muraski, who found the previous wording presented to board members was related to stopping advertising of sexually explicit material and not about stopping sexting, said the language taken from the ordinance used in Kaukauna is designed to achieve what the board wants to do in Howard.
Evert said an amendment to Howard’s bond schedule, which now ranges from $1-$1,000, would be presented at the board’s next meeting.
“I was going to look at the ordinance and come back, probably somewhere in that $100 range for the bond schedule, which would be what the ticket would be written at,” he said. “That doesn’t mean the judge can’t lower or raise it when the kid comes into court, assuming that a person is found guilty.”