Posting student photos on the Web

As a technology leadership guy who also happens to have a law degree, I often get asked legal questions related to school technologies. Today, at the request of Miguel, I'm going to discuss issues related to posting student photos on the Web. I'll preface this discussion with my usual caveats that 1) I am not offering legal advice, 2) I am not in an attorney-client relationship with anyone, and 3) I always recommend that folks consult their school district's attorney regarding legal issues.


\n

Pictures taken for school-related purposes

\n

Schools take pictures of students all the time - for yearbooks, at athletic events, in class, at artistic performances, etc. Often they want to post those pictures to the Internet, thus making those photos potentially available to a global audience.

\n

Every school district should have a policy for dealing with student photos. That policy should comply with the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) as well as any relevant state statutes (for example, Minnesota has the Government Data Practices Act).

\n

Schools should solicit parents' permission to post photos of their child on the Web. The permission form should clearly describe the anticipated ways in which the school will use student pictures. When posting photos, schools should try their utmost not to post accompanying names at all � the next best option probably is to post students' first names but not last names. Sometimes schools need to post students' full names � for example, an online feature of the star pitcher on the softball team or the lead actress in the school play � but these situations should be carefully thought out beforehand to minimize parental concerns about student privacy and safety. Parents should be informed of all of the various permutations so that they can make informed choices about when to grant or refuse permission for their child's photo to be used.

\n

Schools have the difficult obligation to somehow monitor which students' photos can be used online and which can't. For example, if a photo taken of a class activity has a student in the background whose parents refused permission, that photo likely can't be used online, even if the focus of the picture was on other students.

\n

Another dilemma for schools is what to do with parents who don't return the permission form. Schools basically have two options when this occurs:

\n\n\n
    \n
  • assume they have permission to publish unless parents turn in the form and opt out; or
  • \n
  • assume they do not have permission to publish unless parents turn in the form and opt in.
\n\n

The latter option is more protective of students and is generally the one I recommend to educators.

\n

Here are some example policies, forms, and other resources related to school use of student pictures:

\n\n\n\n\n

Pictures taken by parents or other guests

\n

In an interesting twist, Miguel and I recently had an exchange about an e-mail he received from a technology coordinator:

\n

A parent has taken photos at school events, primarily athletic events, then posted them on her own personal web site (without permission of the students or parents involved) with prices for purchasing. I know there could be a problem if the students were identified by name but they are not. There are no captions at all.\n

\n\n

Our superintendent is out of town. I'm sure someone has encountered this situation. Does anyone know if this is legal?

\n

Here's my take on the situation: if the pictures were taken in a public place, or in a place where parents / guests had permission to take pictures (e.g., inside school or on school grounds), I believe that parents or guests are legally entitled to take the photos and/or sell them. If a school district wanted, I think it could have a policy prohibiting anyone taking photographs within school buildings or on school grounds, but the enforcement and/or public relations issues would be difficult.

\n

I found some excellent resources on this issue:

\n\n\n\n\n

Of course a school district can always request that photographers exhibit some sensitivity to folks' concerns about privacy and safety, particularly since most of the subjects of the photos are minor children.

\n

Conclusion

\n

Obviously the issues surrounding photographs of students on the Web are numerous and complex. The challenge for schools is to balance their (and parents') desires to publicize the great things that are happening in their organizations with their responsibilities to protect children and to satisfy parental concerns about student privacy and safety. The guidelines described here also would pertain to videos of students, not just photographs.

\n

How does your school organization handle issues related to online publishing of student photos?

\n\n

This post is also available at the TechLearning blog.

\n

Live on Monday: Does the US need one billion people?

What would happen if you tripled the US population? Join Matthew Yglesias and Charles Duhigg at 1pm ET on Monday, September 28.

Should you grow a beard? Here's how women perceive bearded men

Whether or not women think beards are sexy has to do with "moral disgust"

Photo Credit: Frank Marino / Unsplash
Sex & Relationships
  • A new study found that women perceive men with facial hair to be more attractive as well as physically and socially dominant.
  • Women tend to associate more masculine faces with physical strength, social assertiveness, and formidability.
  • Women who display higher levels of "moral disgust," or feelings of repugnance toward taboo behaviors, are more likely to prefer hairy faces.
Keep reading Show less

Learn innovation with 3-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn

Dominique Crenn, the only female chef in America with three Michelin stars, joins Big Think Live.

Big Think LIVE

Having been exposed to mavericks in the French culinary world at a young age, three-star Michelin chef Dominique Crenn made it her mission to cook in a way that is not only delicious and elegant, but also expressive, memorable, and true to her experience.

Keep reading Show less

Ultracold gas exhibits bizarre quantum behavior

New experiments find weird quantum activity in supercold gas.

Credit: Pixabay
Surprising Science
  • Experiments on an ultracold gas show strange quantum behavior.
  • The observations point to applications in quantum computing.
  • The find may also advance chaos theory and explain the butterfly effect.
  • Keep reading Show less

    3 cognitive biases perpetuating racism at work — and how to overcome them

    Researchers say that moral self-licensing occurs "because good deeds make people feel secure in their moral self-regard."

    Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash
    Personal Growth

    Books about race and anti-racism have dominated bestseller lists in the past few months, bringing to prominence authors including Ibram Kendi, Ijeoma Oluo, Reni Eddo-Lodge, and Robin DiAngelo.

    Keep reading Show less
    Scroll down to load more…
    Quantcast