The Warwick School District, which has recently come under criticism from parents regarding implementation of new media guidelines that went into effect March 18, notified parents by email today of their formal guidelines for employees and restrictions placed on parents in a two-page letter.
“With student safety in mind, due to ever changing digital technology, the proliferation of social media, and sharing of information, and based on new laws surrounding child protection, it has become necessary to address our procedures and place in writing the expectations surrounding the use of images or video of students in the Warwick School District,” wrote Superintendent Dr. April Hershey to parents in the letter dated today.
Language in the “Use of Student Images/Video Administrative Guidelines,” attached to the letter, appears to restrict employees from taking and storing student images on certain devices, and from posting them to social media.
“Employees of the Warwick School District are prohibited from taking, using, posting, or storing photographs or videos of student son their personally created social media accounts whether it is intended for personal or school use, (Mrs. X’s Facebook Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc.) and are prohibited from using personal recording devices, cameras, cellphones, or any other device to record or store images or video of students,” it reads.
The district has not yet responded to a request for comment by LititzDailyNews.com regarding how it plans to monitor the social media accounts of district employees to ensure compliance with the new guidelines.
Parents recently became upset after the school district directed a parent photographer to remove photos of students who performed in the high school musical, The Scarlet Pimpernel, from social media and from his online sales galleries in the wake of the new media guidelines.
The parent was reportedly given access to photograph and record video by the district, but was not contracted with the district to take the photos.
“As Mark Myers was not hired by the District, he was not officially authorized to take the photos and video of the musical,” said district spokeswoman Lori Zimmerman in a March 23 email to LititzDailyNews.com. “Additionally these images do not comply with copyright laws, therefore he cannot and we cannot authorize their use.”
Concerned parents took to social media to express dismay and disappointment over the effects of the new guidelines on preventing access to their own child’s photographs. Today’s letter from the district attempts to clarify some parent concerns.
“As for taking photographs of your student during school events, parents and families have he right to take and use photographs and video of their children for personal use, as long as the event does not contain copyrighted material,” said Hershey in the letter.
The licensing agreement for The Scarlet Pimpernel, a copyrighted work presented by the school through a special arrangement with Tams-Witmark Music Library, Inc., may have prevented photography or videography of the play for any purpose. The Tams-Witmark Music website states in response to a FAQ of whether a licensee may videotape a show, “No, the right to create a video recording of your stage performance is not supplied with your license.” LititzDailyNews.com intends to request a copy of district license for the musical under the Right to Know Law.
“Warwick School District will make an announcement at any event or performance where photographs and/or video are prohibited due to copyright laws,” said Hershey in the letter.
It is unclear how the the new media policy may also affect photographers who contract to take yearbook and team photos, and how they are able to display photos on their own sites and social media. who are required to maintain background checks and clearances.
The Warwick School District was contacted today for comment, but has not replied as of press time. If a response is received, this article will be updated.
Lynn Rebuck covers education and everything else for LititzDailyNews.com. Email her with comments or questions at editor@LititzDaily.com.