QUESTION: Do Alamance-Burlington school officials have to obtain parental consent before they can take photos of students for the ABSS website?
ANSWER: Yes, a new provision within the Parents’ Bill of Rights that took effect January 1 prohibits the creation of a video, voice recording, and photograph of students by school employees without parental consent, which must be given in advance and in writing.
“Prior to the Parents’ Bill of Rights, if you did not say, ‘no, I do not want my child photographed,’ we could take their photo,” ABSS public information officer Les Atkins explained Wednesday in an interview with The Alamance News.
Now, parents of students in all 116 public school systems in the state must affirmatively opt in for their children to be photographed at school. They do that by signing a digital document – one among numerous digital documents parents are given to review through the online “Power School” platform – in order to allow their children to be photographed while at school, Atkins told the newspaper. That consent is also required in order to have a child’s photograph printed in the school yearbook, he added.
“It’s all or nothing,” said Atkins.
There’s a caveat: no permission is required for students who attend school board meetings – and may be photographed during the course of the meeting.
Atkins said that students’ attendance at school board meetings represents “implied consent,” as state and federal law place few limits on photographs taken during the course of an official meeting of a public body.
However, if a parent doesn’t want his or her child photographed while playing football, that probably means “your child can’t play,” the public information officer added.
For an example, Atkins pointed to a group photo taken last week of students at A.O.
Elementary School who had recently completed the “Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program. “We had a student [whose parent] had a firm ‘no’; we did a group photo with the students with all their certificates. That student [whose parent hadn’t consented] was excluded from the photo.
“We do try to stay on top of that because we respect parents’ rights,” the public information officer told the newspaper.
The Parents’ Bill of Rights was sponsored during the 2023 session of the General Assembly by state senator Amy Scott Galey, a Republican who represents Alamance and Randolph counties, as well as Republican senators Michael Lee and Lisa Barnes. While Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the bill last July, the General Assembly successfully voted to override his veto in August 2023.
The state Department of Public Instruction, however, later received an extension of the deadline to implement required policy changes until January 1, in order to give public school systems time to comply with the new law.
The most notable, and controversial, provision in the Parents’ Bill of Right was a ban on any instruction about gender identity and sexuality for students in kindergarten through fourth grade, according to the Legislative Analysis Division for the General Assembly. The new law also requires public school employees to notify parents if a child requests to change his or her name or preferred pronoun while at school.
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