Your children's school events, their photos and the law

By Robert Arnold - Investigative Reporter

CONROE, Texas - When a mother from The Woodlands area contacted KPRC2 regarding images of her children at an athletic event winding up online and available for purchase, we immediately started researching the circumstances, the law and what responsibilities school districts have when students compete in athletic and academic competitions

"I was shocked to find that photos of my kids were taken without my permission," mother Erin Crocker said.

Crocker got a call from a friend telling her pictures from her two daughters' recent water polo competition in Shenandoah were online for purchase.

"It worried me. My first concern is the privacy of my own children," Crocker said.

The website Crocker is talking about isn't associated with Conroe ISD, but features dozens of pictures of students participating in athletic and academic events.

"I never knew the photos would be sold," Crocker said.

After hearing these concerns, the first thing KPRC2 found is this is far from the only site taking pictures at public school events and competitions open to the general public and offering the photos for sale. KPRC2 then asked the school district why parental permission was not asked for beforehand.

Conroe ISD officials told KPRC2 the Texas Education Code does not require parental permission at extra or co-curricular activities that are open to the general public. 

An attorney specializing in privacy as well as marketing and promotion compliance, Travis Crabtree, said he believes the sale of these photos is legal since the images were captured at a public event.

"As long as the image is not being used to sell or endorse a product or person, it is legal to sell the photo because it was taken at a public event," Crabtree, with Gray Reed and McGraw, said.

Crocker was surprised since she goes to great lengths to protect other portions of her children's digital lives.

"My kids have private accounts on Instagram and my Facebook account is very locked down," Crocker said.

KPRC2 contacted the photographer who said he did not have any on-the-record comment about this story.

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