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DWU’s Weins to release book on youth sexting

Jesse Weins, assistant professor of criminal justice and dean of the College of Leadership and Public Service at Dakota Wesleyan University, will publish a book based on his research on teen sexting.

It will be the first book-length secondary resource on this topic in the U.S.

“Sexting and Youth: A Multidisciplinary Examination of Research, Theory, and Law,” edited by Todd C. Hiestand and W. Jesse Weins, will be available in print in May from Carolina Academic Press.

Weins co-edited the project, as well as wrote the opening chapter. He was assisted in research and editing by DWU human services major Darin Bartscher, of Emery, and Sarah Owens, a 2013 graduate with a human services and criminal justice double major.

Weins first co-authored the journal article “Sexting, Statutes, and Saved by the Bell: Introducing a Lesser Juvenile Charge with an ‘Aggravating Factors’ Framework” in 2009 with Hiestand. At the time, they were among the first in the nation to address the subject of teen sexting laws and legal responses.

“We felt this subject was in need of policy analysis because in the beginning, justice system workers had no guidance whatsoever for how to approach these cases,” Weins said.

“Sexting” is sexualized texting — especially sending sexually explicit photos or videos via cell phones. Taking such photos of minors is punishable by law, but four years ago states didn’t differentiate between minors and adults under traditional child pornography laws. Weins and Hiestand made the argument for a lesser juvenile legal response appropriate to the behavior.

Since then, the subject has been up for debate.

“Positive steps have been made in the last fi ve years toward better responses for teen sexting,” Weins said. “But even now there is not uniformity in how to approach the topic, neither in law nor policy.”

Weins was eager to include students in the research process because he knows that hands-on experience is important in education.

“As a student, it’s helpful to see the research and publishing side of academia, since it demystifies the whole process,” he said. “It’s helpful for faculty to include students, especially in topics like this where youth are involved, to get a different perspective, to get their take on it.”