(WVEC) -- Sexting among high school students has become an epidemic in Virginia schools, but the consequences are even more alarming.
The current penalties for sexting include felony charges and having to register as a sex offender. Lawmakers said this needs to change.
“I’ve seen a lot of pictures on like social media and Instagram, or through messages where someone will pass the phone around the classroom,” said 11th grader Iyana Miller.
Miller said she sees sexting in the hallways of her school every day. She said the students doing it aren’t necessarily bad, they’re just making bad decisions.
“I think everyone makes mistakes, and as you grow older you should learn from them,” said Miller.
However, under the current state law, the sender and receiver of sexting can be charged with the distribution and possession of child porn, which is a felony.
"What are we going to do about this, we don't want to make every kid in the school a felon,” said 36th District Senator Scott Surovell.
Surovell proposed a bill that would give prosecutors the option to charge sexting among minors as a misdemeanor.
"These ought to be used as teaching moments to sort of get children some education, give them an opportunity to show they're engaged in good conduct and ultimately get the charge dismissed," said Surovell.
Shanta Miller, a mother, travels to schools across Hampton Roads speaking to students about the consequences of sexting. She said most of the kids have no idea it’s a crime, let alone a felony.
“They know the right and wrong I believe, but they don’t know the intensity of what can travel with them and ruin them trying to get a job or moving forward in life being a sex offender,” said Miller.
Miller said sexting is often a part of peer pressure, just like drugs and alcohol, and it needs to be treated in a similar manner, with good parenting.
“Kids are making it cool, it’s cool to send these pictures, or ‘I really like you just send it to me,’” said Miller. “We have to educate them on this because they don’t come with a book and they don’t come with this wealth of knowledge, they don’t know.”
The bill has already passed the Senate and now it moves on to the House.