Toronto

No-photos choice for their child in school is too limited, parents say

The parents of a child attending a French school in Vaughan say they withheld consent for their son to be photographed in class because they didn't want the photos used on social media. Little did they know he wouldn't be allowed to appear in his class picture.

Karim Korany's parents want board to change consent process for photos taken at schools

Four-year-old Karim Korany's parents say they withheld consent for photos to be taken of Karim, because they didn't want them used on social media. They didn't realize he wouldn't be able to appear in his class picture. (Genevieve Maheux-Pelletier)

Hanging in the kindergarten classroom at école élémentaire La Fontaine are the self-portraits of nearly 30 students. Each drawing is contrasted by the photograph of the child next to it.

Karim Korany's art is there, but his photo isn't. He's not in the class photo, either.

His parents, Yasser Korany and Genevieve Maheux-Pelletier, said he's being excluded from some educational experiences because they chose not to give consent to having his photograph taken at school.

Art work by Karim Korany, 4, and his classmates.

"He sees in the classroom that there are pictures of his peers. He doesn't see his," Maheux-Pelletier told CBC Toronto, "Why is it that my child is put aside and being told, 'No, I'm sorry but you cannot be part of the picture?'"

At the beginning of the school year at the French school in Kleinburg, his parents were given a form similar to the one used by all school boards in the province. It requests permission to take photographs, including videos, of their children at school and allows for their use on social media.

Karim's parents didn't want him in photos that might be used on social media, so they decided against saying okay. Otherwise, they said, they'd be giving "blanket consent."

So why did his parents agree to the use of Karim's photo for this story? They say that for them, the issue is about being able to control and manage how his image is used.

"We want our child to be included in all and every educational opportunity that you provide him with, just like his peers," such as posting photos of children doing activities in the classroom, his mother said.

Since the practice of taking photos in classrooms predates social media, Maheux-Pelletier said the consent form should "distinguish between normal use of pictures for educational purposes versus using the same pictures for [social media]."

Note in Karim Korany's daily agenda responding to parents' questions about the school's policy on photos and videos. (Genevieve Maheux-Pelletier)

The family's decision has caused confusion for the little boy. His mother said the school isn't interested in the intent behind the family's decision — which was to manage online exposure, which she hoped mitigates potential risks like "cyber bullying" or "predators."

She wanted educators to apply discretion depending on when photos or video are taken and what they're used for.

When the principal of the school told them this isn't possible, they took their concerns to the director of education and superintendent.

Superintendent responds

After CBC Toronto inquired Tuesday about the family's concerns, school superintendent Sylvie Longo responded, writing that the school couldn't accommodate the request "to use and disclose your child's images and school work in particular circumstances or locations only."

She described a challenge like visitors who may want to take photos of their own child's work but "there is a possibility of them capturing other students' images and work that are showcased and share these on various communication platforms without consent."

Claire Francoeur, the Conseil Scolaire Viamonde (school board) spokeswoman, told CBC Toronto this would be too challenging to govern, so the only option is a strict "no photo" policy when parents don't give authorization.

"If we committed to the parents, 'No, won't be published,' then we will do everything to enforce the decision of the parents that it won't be published," she said.

Yasser Korany, Genevieve Maheux-Pelletier and four-year-old Karim Korany. (Genevieve Maheux-Pelletier)

According to the board, students aren't excluded from school activities when consent isn't granted. In cases where permission isn't given, children could be asked to sit in an area of the classroom that wouldn't be part of picture taking or videos.

Using the kindergarten self-portrait as an example, Francoeur said, the school work was unaffected by excluding the photo.

The board has approximately 11,400 students in its schools and Francoeur said it's a minority of parents, perhaps 15 to 20 per cent, who do not give consent.

But she said the board can't create an exception for the Korany family without doing the same for any of the thousands of families in that circumstance.

Maheux-Pelletier said with the widespread use of social media the forms used by the boards need to be revised.

"The form that they ask us to sign is a blanket consent. I said to them, 'Your form needs to be more specific.'"

Maheux-Pelletier said it's ridiculous that this seems to be all about social media — a concept difficult to explain to a four-year-old — not to mention the challenge of helping him understand why he's "left out."

About the Author

Stephanie Matteis is a senior reporter with CBC News, filing stories for television, radio & online. She's a pathological truthteller and storytelling junkie whose work appears on CBC Toronto, The National and Marketplace. Contact Stephanie: stephanie.matteis@cbc.ca and @CBCsteph on Twitter.