Works of their own

I’ve been working for a few weeks now with a class at a local elementary school, under the tutelage of the school’s writing instructor, to create a published project generated by the students. The form the project takes will likely be something in print initially, as that comes easiest. I have been hoping also to publish online, since it is low-cost, full-color, and accessible. The writing instructor caught on to this idea favorably and has since been asking questions to learn what is possible both legally and technically.

We learned that the local school department’s policy is that no real names or images of children can be disseminated by the department itself. Articles in the paper that name specific children and their ages, depict them in images, and state where they go to school notwithstanding—since liability for those presumably falls on the shoulders of the publications that publish the information—such identifying information is meant to stay private, according to what the school department can publish. This comes head-to-head with my own urge to give students’ credit for their work, including their name in a bold byline, accompanied by their own smiling photo. Not only might students feel good to see their name up in lights like this; I think their parents and teachers might feel proud, too. And it can encourage further creations, and further publishing. It’s also good for the school district’s public relations: our children are creative producers—here is what they made.

In a meeting with the school department’s Webmaster, it became clear that this issue has arisen before. Several city schools have produced student-created works, whether academic or artistic, that cannot be published online because of the privacy policy. Or, if they are published online, they must be heavily edited to remove images of students and their names.

Our tentative solution is to use unlikely (i.e. not possibly real) pen names, and no photos. The published works of young “Twinkletoes Stardust” are coming soon to a computer screen near you.

Author: Heather Brandon

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