Because there is, apparently, no boundary that lascivious boys and dirty old men will not cross, and because technology now gives them the means to cross more of them, the Oregon legislature is having to consider yet another law. It is House Bill 2596, sponsored of Rep. Andy Olson of Albany and others.
The bill would make it a crime to take or distribute surreptitious “upskirt” photographs, a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail for the first offense, and a felony worth up to five years in the pen for any repeats.
At a hearing on Feb. 18, a teacher at Albany’s Calapooia Middle School urged the House Judiciary Committee to pass the bill. A student in one of her classes had held a cell phone close to the floor and made an image under her ankle-length dress, then instantly started sending the image to other students. The teacher did not become aware until, a few days later, a girl student advised her to quit wearing skirts.
By the time the school investigated, the young voyeur denied everything and the photo had disappeared from his phone. Judging by her statement to the legislature, nothing happened to the boy or anyone who had helped spread the photo. The only apparent consequence was that the teacher banned cell phones in her classes. (Why children in schools are allowed to have phones at all when pocket knives and aspirin are banned is a question for another day, as is an inquiry into how well Albany schools’ “character education” program is working.)
If this was an issue only for teachers and schools, we might ask the schools to figure out a solution and forget about making one more thing that is already wrong illegal as well. But as the committee also heard, there was the case of a 61-year-old Portland man charged in court with having followed a 13-year-old girl in a Beaverton Target store and taken a photo under her skirt. The judge had to dismiss the case because what the creep did was disgusting but not against the law.
The pending bill would amend the law by making it unlawful to “record another person’s intimate areas” without consent, and by intimate areas it means private parts covered with underwear. It’s sad that we have to rewrite laws in such convoluted ways. It is one of the many ills that technology has wrought. (hh)