Additional thoughts on the Texas principal forcing a portfolio takedown

Additional thoughts on the Texas principal forcing a portfolio takedown

I have grave concerns after reading this article: High School Forces Student to Remove Online Photos Under Threat of Suspension. Without being able to see the work in question, it’s hard to form a full conclusion. At best, this principal needs a major primer in public affairs. From what I’ve read and seen, though, the principal in question has exceeded his legal reach, and escaped ethical boundaries.

Photos taken at public events (and a district meet/game is a public event) are the property of the photographer. Perhaps these were taken with school gear, and ownership becomes a little trickier. Maybe, but not really. Fair use is fairly clear. It doesn’t appear that this young man was making money directly off these images.

For a photographer, the online portfolio is critical. It is THE vehicle, anymore, to generate awareness and recognition. This principal’s actions provide a major impediment towards this young man’s pursuit of his passion, to build a photography career. Which should be antithetical to the role of an educator.

Maybe there were some grounds to act. I’m struggling to see any, but I’ll accept the possibility might exist. Going the heavy-handed route, though, seriously violates the nurturing role of an educator. It also displays an amazing tone-deafness regarding his role as a public servant and community leader. The potential public fallout from this (this is in Texas, I’m in Seattle. It’s going viral) could have easily been avoided by seeking a win-win solution, to recognize the student’s rights and concerns and goals.

Lesson: if you’re in a public role, you need to consider the broad-scale implications of your actions. The ease at which misdeeds go global is mind blowing. I have a sympathy ulcer for the public affairs director for this district. Nothing like a national press kerfuffle to grey your hairs.

Carl Setzer

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