Some parents have decided to rescind all rights given to the Wayne Public School District to use their child’s image following the district creating an Instagram account.
Petra Schwarz and Philip Paisnel notified the district earlier this month they would not like their child’s image made public, including on social media sites, the Wayne School District website, and in other media outlets, citing privacy concerns.
“Why does a school, which is a non-profit, have to employ social media? In this day and age, with all these crazy people out there, if someone gets fixated on a kid, who knows what can happen,” said Paisnel, noting that he finds having such an account “irresponsible” of the district. “There is a lot of scary stuff out there and kids can get lured in by online predators.”
The district has 14 posts on the account, which dates back to July; 89 users follow the account. The first post was a group of students at the Wayne Education Foundation’s summer camp; 13 more posts have been made since, including five this month. The post recent post is a 15-second long video of first graders at John F. Kennedy Elementary School learning how to count by singing and clapping their hands. Students are not identified in any of the posts.
The district’s photo and name release agreement covers the Instagram account. The agreement gives the district the right to release a student’s name, grade, and photos or images of him or her.
“If a child’s parents do not permit his or her picture to be released to the media, or used in the media, that child’s picture should not be used in the district’s Instagram account,” said Superintendent Ray Gonzalez.
Russ Warner is president and chief executive officer of Content Watch, a Utah-based company that designs Internet safety software for businesses and private users, including Net Nanny. The software screens out potentially dangerous content while young users are online.
“Three hundred and fifty million photographs are uploaded to Facebook everyday,” Warner said. “Parents really need to be involved in their child’s online life and know what sites they are using online, who they are talking to, and what they are posting online.”
The district also has accounts on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Google+. Success Communications, a public relations firm, manages those accounts. The Board of Education voted 8-1 in July to renew the district’s $30,000 annual contract with the firm, which will expire in July 2014. Residents have spoken out against the move in the media and at board meetings. They have said hiring the firm is a waste of taxpayer dollars.
“We just want to protect our kids,” Paisnel said. “I’ve seen enough and read enough. People are very sophisticated and parents aren’t always sophisticated enough to deal with all of this stuff that’s out there.”
Editor's note: A quote by Superintendent Ray Gonzalez originally stated that the image of a student that isn't permitted to be released to, or used by, the media could be used on Instagram. The quote has been corrected.