To address the growing problems of teen sexting, cyber-bullying and sexual harassment, the Mahoning County Juvenile Court and prosecutor’s office have launched a new program focused on these behaviors and their consequences.
The program, known as the Cyber and Relational Diversion Program, will address the personal, emotional and legal consequences of these inappropriate behaviors with teens and their parents.
The county’s parents, school systems and law-enforcement agencies should consider this program “as a primary prevention tool to divert and intervene early to prevent potential legal ramifications” and “the emotional victimization of others,” said Judge Theresa Dellick of the juvenile court.
Parents often are unaware of recently enacted laws and the severe penalties they impose for harassing behaviors, said Anissa Modarelli, juvenile court prosecutor.
“While parents may have a tendency to dismiss them as normal teenage behavior, our experience and legal system are not as forgiving,” and the legal system “is compelled to protect victims and society,” Modarelli said.
Ohio’s anti-sexting laws concerning nude photos of minors carry felony-level penalties, including incarceration and long-term sex-offender registration requirements.
The charges may be filed against those who take, send or receive the nude photos.
Legislative efforts to reduce these charges to misdemeanors have failed, Judge Dellick said.
Mahoning County youths, age 12 to 17, are eligible for the new program, for which parental or guardian involvement is required, and youthful participants must complete a five-week series of classes and workshops.
Youths may be referred to the CARD program by the court, parents or guardians, schools, community groups and law enforcement.
The program was developed and is being facilitated by James DeLucia and Sharon Fischer, licensed counselors, and the court offers free counseling.
For more information, call the juvenile court at 330-740-2278.
Youths who currently are in juvenile detention or on probation or supervision are not eligible for the CARD program.