Photographing and Filming Students in Independent and Catholic Schools

29 October 2018

Currently in Australia there are no specific laws which prevent an individual in public from taking a photo of a student. 

That being said, the Privacy Act 1988 (Cth) governs how personal information including images can be collected, stored and used. Your school’s child safe policy may also set out when adults, and which adults, are allowed to photograph students, and in what circumstances.

Many schools grapple with balancing the need to promote the school’s activities and achievements against parent wishes and concerns, which can range from very protective to “oversharing” when it comes to photos of students!

In addition to being subject by virtue of annual turnover of (more than $3,000,000), and because they are prescribed as health services, independent schools must comply with the Australian Privacy Principles (APPs) which are set out in the Privacy Act, and their state health records act legislation.

The APPs include the requirement to be transparent (in your privacy policy) and compliant as to:

  • The kinds of personal information that the school can collect;
  • The use of personal information, including for directed marketing;
  • The integrity of personal information; and
  • Accessing and correcting personal information.

Common privacy concerns for schools

Whilst grappling with getting the balance rights, schools often note these dilemmas:

  1. Many school productions contain copyright material, and it is often a condition of the license that people may not take photos or recordings;
  2. It is impracticable to expect parents to not take photos; and
  3. Schools do seek consent but are confronted by parents who object to the school’s use of their child’s image nonetheless.

Some key tips for best practice

  • As Independent and Catholic Schools are private property, school staff members are entitled to ask people not to take photographs. This means that during school productions, you can have signs posted around the area stating that no photos can be taken. This respects the privacy of attendees and allows parents to advise the school if they don’t want their photo taken. Violent interventions are not required!
  • The Parents’ Code of Conduct should ensure that the School’s position on parents taking photos is clearly outlined. If zero tolerance is unattainable, consider including clear rules about sharing on social media and seeking consent of depicted students (or their parents if younger students) before sharing. It’s not best practice to “give up” on setting reasonable boundaries, just because some parents are uncooperative, or “know” their “rights”.
  • When seeking information for specific purposes from parents (which typically is sought in the annual update), consider using check boxes for level of consent based on the types of photos and purposes (e.g. for funding, for advertising, for school community). However, be careful of seeking consent for one purpose and using for another!!
  • Respect any requests from parents regarding the taking and use of photos, and ensure processes support these requests. Equally, respect that people can change their mind or have a change in circumstances which may alter their previous position on photos and consent. Maintain a database of children that are not to be photographed, and ensure that all staff members are aware of this requirement. If photographs or videos are accidently taken, ensure they are destroyed appropriately.
  • Even if broad consent can be relied upon, if a child’s photo is to be used as school advertising or in a way that it will reach further than the immediate school community (such as on the landing page of the school website,) request additional consent from the parents that they are happy for their child’s photo to be used in this way.
  • Consider identifying students by first name only, as a practicable limit on identification.

How we can help

Moores assists clients in the education sector to create workable and compliant privacy frameworks, including privacy training for staff. We can advise on any privacy breaches or data breaches, in the event these do occur. 

If you would like further assistance, please contact privacy expert and Practice Leader Cecelia Irvine-So on (03) 9843 2100, or fill out the enquiry form below.

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Related Expertise

Commercial,Child Safety