Focus on senior portraits

Marsha Sutton
Marsha Sutton

By Marsha Sutton

As part of its contract with the San Dieguito Union High School District to shoot senior yearbook portraits, Keane Studios, located in Carmel Valley, receives personal contact information for each 12th-grade student and their parents.

Some parents say this is wrong, citing a violation of privacy rights.

“A few weeks ago I received a letter that [child’s] personal information was sent to Keane Studios so she could be photographed for the yearbook,” said one parent in May, whose child will be a senior this fall.

The parent, who wished to remain anonymous, received letters, emails and calls – not only from Keane but also from high school students on the yearbook staff, urging her to schedule a sitting. When she contacted the studio, she learned that Keane had her child’s name, address, phone number and email, as well as all that for her and her husband.

“I do not feel it is acceptable for a for-profit business to be given all this personal information … without the explicit consent of the parents,” she said in an email.

But the district has supported this approach which it claims has worked well in years past, to communicate to families the deadlines and details of senior yearbook portraits. The goal is to inform and include as many seniors as possible in the yearbook, while minimizing the many staff hours it would take to do Keane’s work.

Christina Bennett, SDUHSD’s director of purchasing and risk management, confirmed that personal student contact information is routinely given to Keane Studios but added that the Annual Notification signature page provided to parents at the start of each school year allows parents to opt out of information sharing.

“Through the annual notification to parents, the district seeks permission from parents to release directory information for legitimate educational interests or official district business,” Bennett said in an email. “Parents do have the option to request their children’s information be withheld.”

The form allows parents to opt their children out of contact from the military, colleges and employers – and from the yearbook.

If “yearbook” is checked, that indicates “you do not want your student’s photo in yearbook.” There is no option to prohibit specific contractors from receiving student information.

Bennett said outside vendors who receive student information are required to sign a confidentiality agreement before information is released. “We have such an agreement with Keane,” she said.

The agreement says that the contractor (in this case, Keane Studios) “is required to maintain the confidentiality of the student information provided and not to disclose personally identifiable information about a student including photos to any other party without the prior written consent of the parent or eligible student …”

The agreement further states that when the work has been completed, “all student information will be destroyed and no copies or other retention of the personally identifiable student information will be maintained.”

This last part may come as a surprise to my anonymous parent who said she discovered Keane had retained her older child’s personal information when she called Keane about her rising senior.

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