Mom Says Keeping Her Son Out of Class Photo is (Literally) Bad Form
Filed under: In The News
The school district in Tomball, Texas, a town of about 9,000 people northwest of Houston, has a lengthy registration form. Parents are asked dozens of questions, including whether or not their home has running water and if anyone in the family is doing jail time.
Parents also are asked if their child can be photographed or interviewed for the media. This is where things get dicey.
District officials include, under the definition of "media," school newsletters and newspapers, as well as "yearbooks." That presumably includes elementary school class photos.
Presumably. Calls from ParentDish were directed to Staci Stanfield, the district's communications director, who said she would discuss the policy after reviewing the registration forms. When she didn't call back after four hours, a voice message was left that she has yet to return.
However, representatives from school districts across the country had no hesitation explaining their privacy policies. District officials in Mason City, Iowa; Metropolis, Ill.; and Dallas, Ore., all tell ParentDish they allow parents to shield their children from media coverage.
They also allow parents to excuse their children from yearbook and class photos. However, their privacy forms differentiate between media coverage and inclusion in school photos.
Privacy rights are guaranteed to students and parents under the federal Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974.
Davis says she likes having the option of not having her son's name and face released to the Tomball Magnolia Tribune News, Houston Chronicle and other news organizations.
"I just thought there could be options," she tells ParentDish. "There was quite a lot of paperwork," she adds, referring to the school district's registration forms. "It didn't say anything about class pictures. It was all together."
Davis says she has asked Tomball Superintendent John Neubauer about amending the registration form, but she suspects he may be shining her on.
"It's not easy telling a 7-year-old you can't have your picture taken," she says. "All he can hear is 'Mommy won't let me do it.' "
Davis insists she's not out to start a war with the school district. She just wants the registration form changed. And, she says, she wants to teach her son a lesson. When something is wrong, you don't just sit back and take it. You do something about it.
The current form takes too many choices away from parents, Davis tells ParentDish.
"What other parental control will they make me give up in the future?" she asks.
Correction, Nov. 2, 2010: An earlier version of this story erroneously stated that Tomball was southeast of Houston instead of northwest of Houston.
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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.