FOIP Information for Schools
The following is a very handy resource, supplied by Service Alberta, for schools to refer to when publishing student work/photos, school newsletters or posting to school websites. The section on photographs is set out below. For a complete copy of the resource document click here.
Please contact Faye Dunne, BTPS FOIP Coordinator, at email@example.com for any FOIP-related questions.
Frequently Asked Questions for School Jurisdictions
The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIP) Act aims to strike a balance between the public’s right to know and the individual’s right to privacy, as those rights relate to information held by public bodies in Alberta.
- Who can photograph students at public events at schools?
- Schools can decide to invite spectators, including parents or media, to certain school events. This is a school policy issue rather than a FOIP issue. Once parents or other members of the public are invited (other than as volunteers within the school), the event becomes a public event, and anyone in attendance may take photographs without first obtaining consent.
- Who can photograph students involved in performing arts or competitive teams?
- Students involved in performing arts or competitive teams perform or compete in public venues and it is reasonable to expect that photographs may be taken by spectators and by schools.
- Anyone may take photographs of students participating in a public event. These photographs may be disclosed for promotion of the school or the school board's activities.
- Can schools and school boards photograph students in classrooms?
- School staff may take photographs of students for use within the school.
- Schools do not need to get parental consent for these photographs. This is part of the general notice that certain personal information is collected for the purpose of providing educational programs.
- Can the media photograph students in classrooms?
- Schools need to obtain parental consent before allowing those outside the school, including parents, visitors, or media, to take photographs of students at non-public events. Consent is required only if individual students are identifiable in the pictures.For example, if the newspaper wants to interview and photograph the Grade 6 student who had the highest marks, the school must get parental consent first. If the newspaper wants to photograph the school's new computer lab, it could photograph the students from the back, in a way that did not identify individuals, without requiring consent.
- The media are expected to behave responsibly and co-operate with schools that have invited them to participate in school events.
- Schools should be proactive by communicating with the local media and agreeing upon guidelines in advance of inviting media into the schools.
- Would visits by a celebrity or dignitary to a classroom be considered a public event?
- Probably not. Visits by celebrities or dignitaries to a classroom when the public is not invited, are not public events. If the media are invited, parental consent should be sought for photos or interviews.
- Can the media interview or photograph students at school events such as student modeled fashion shows or Safe and Caring School programs, when the public has not been invited?
- No. Schools should seek parental consent before allowing the media to interview or photograph students at non-public events.
- How should schools go about producing newsletters?
- Newsletters are used to announce student success, events and activities within the school and its community and are generally made available to parents, bus drivers, board members, trustees and other schools in the community. As such they are public documents.
- Schools need to determine whether all personal information being placed in the newsletter is a use consistent with the purpose for which the information was collected or compiled, and has a reasonable and direct connection to that purpose within the meaning of sections 39(1)(a) and 41. If the use of personal information is consistent with the purpose for which it was collected or compiled, then schools would only need to give notice to parents on how the information will be used. Notification of what is normally published in the newsletter could be part of the notification process done during registration. If the use of personal information is not a consistent use, then consent is required.
- The notice can describe that the school newsletter regularly includes for example, a welcome to new students (age and grade), names and photos of students of the month, or students achieving honours, news on sports teams and athletic achievements, and photos of students involved in school projects.
- Normally newsletters include a mixture of general information and personal information. An example of the former may be a story about the grade 5 class visiting the museum. The story describing the class visit may not disclose personal information about individual students. Schools should seek parental consent when students are being profiled individually in an in-depth way or on a sensitive subject.
- Section 17(2)(j) sets out the circumstances where personal information can normally be disclosed. These include enrollment in a school, attendance or participation in a public event, and receipt of an honour or award granted by the school board. Any expressed objections by parents on the use and disclosure of the personal information must be considered (section 17(3)). For more information see FOIP Bulletin No. 4 on Disclosure of Personal Information “Not Contrary to the Public Interest” and the publication Using and Disclosing Personal Information in School Jurisdictions.
- Can schools photograph students for student identification cards?
- Schools can photograph students for student identification cards without asking for consent from parents. These identification cards are in the custody of students, so no personal information is disclosed.
- How should schools go about producing yearbooks?
- Yearbooks are normally available to anyone who wants to purchase a copy and they may be placed in public libraries. As such, they are public documents.
- Schools must decide whether their yearbooks are part of an educational program. If yes, then photographs and other personal information may be included without requiring consent. If no, consents must be obtained before using some personal information.
- Photographs taken at public events, as in questions 1 and 2 above, or in classrooms as in question 3, can be included without consent.
- Consent should be obtained to include individual or group photographs which do not fit into the above categories.
- Personal information to be included in the yearbook, for example, the student's educational or career plans, should be collected directly from the individual the information is about.
- Can schools disclose the names of graduating students or students who received an honour or award?
- The school can disclose a list of names of students who have received an honour or award granted by the school under section 17(2)(j)(iv) of the Act. This can include graduation certificates or diplomas.
- Can schools and school boards display pictures of graduating students and historical photographs within the schools and administrative offices?
- If the pictures were created for educational purposes, the continued display of them is allowed.