Families Not Giving Media Permission

Our school (like most) sends home media permission forms to students’ families each year. This year, for the first time, I have several students on the team whose families marked “I do NOT give permission” for photos and videos of their students to be used. It’s simple enough to not use photos of those students working on the robot, goofing around with friends, etc, however I’m wondering what to do about team photos. Has anyone else been in this situation? I’d like to be able to take at least one team photo that we can share with families and use for recruiting the following year, even if we can’t share it more broadly (such as on social media).

Do we just not do a team photo at all this year? Or take a team photo and ask those students to not be in it? Both options feel bad. Any better ideas?


I have not run into this issue before but I do know that it’s also something the parents need to sign off on with FIRST when registering their student to participate on the team through FIRST Inspires.


On top of @Tim708 comment please make them very aware that if they choose to go to competitions by entering their likeness may be used by FIRST and media sources and FIRST events have signage stating so.


Several!? At what point does this become problematic when attempting to have a functioning team? In addition to them (potentially) not going to competitions [see Tyler’s post], what about outreach and sponsor events where you may not have control over photographers – does this start to impact your chances for submitted awards. “We did this really impactful thing … of which we have no photos or videos”.

I would really want to understand why they are making that choice and what flexibility they might offer with it.

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I’ve had good success talking with the parents and understanding their concerns and explaining the reasons media is important to our team’s success. Every parent has been understanding and changed their decision. Sometimes we get a, “please avoid having my student in as much publicly posted media as possible” but most parents want their student to feel included and that extends to things like team photos.


I’m not sure that signage is particularly obvious at all competitions. And I believe it applies to all who enter - not just registered team members.

This is so complicated - I’d hate to tell students they can’t join the team at competitions because they aren’t actually members of the team but that’s what it may take to assure the parents understand the situation.


Team photo, with those specific members blurred?

Talking to the families 1:1 will likely be your best path here. Both about the realities of being present at competition, and the unpleasant experiences their students will go through If they need to be completely excluded from team photos etc.

The families probably did not think through their choice to the point of how it impacts their kids role in the program. Assume that they have good intent, explain how their choice impacts how their their student experiences the team, and I’d bet one Costco hot dog that you get at least team specific media releases from all of them.

(I’m not burrito certain, maybe one family is that weird)


+1 for talking to the families one on one to see why they marked it. See if it’s an actual issue, or if they were just like “I clicked a box at random”.

If you can, also talk to the school admin first - ask about the form, and why the opt-out option is there (presumably other clubs would have similar issues). Knowing if it’s an actual legal issue or something could help inform the conversations with the families.


Keep in mind a common reason for refusing photos is for people escaping from abusive relationships. The safety of the child should always be considered.


IDK, perhaps there is a real security concern. The family’s security team advised them against having photo/images taken as a “cover your butt” kinda thing and didn’t understand all the ramifications.
I once taught a private CPR class to a very affluent family. The security team (at least 4 onsite) did a background check on me, forbid any photo/videos, and I had to sign a NDA (which I could possibly be violating right now!) …don’t recall the details of what I could/not disclose.

But, as suggested, it would be best to speak with the families to understand their actual concerns and work from there.


I mean, this could be a decision from students that just don’t want people taking pictures of them. I don’t think that’s an unreasonable thing to ask for in today’s world for several reasons.


Yep, that’s why I’d only (bet a Costco hot dog)* that you could get either school or tailored team specific media releases with all those families.

I meant “weird” in my post in a non-judgmental way (maybe not possible using that word), there are plenty of ways to end up in edge cases like yours and skukes.

Talking to the families in question to understand their specific situations and goals in making the opt-out choice is the right next step. From there, the team can figure out how to handle those students/families needs appropriately.

Families on my team would not understand FIRST well enough to understand the impact of opting out of the school media release, and I think I could talk them through their fears. Your community may vary.

(*See discussion below, a Costco hot dog carries surprising certainty. I actually meant the opposite - that I would not bet a whole $11 burrito that every family signs a release, but I would bet a $1.50 hotdog.)

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Have you read the photo release that is part of the required First release form for team members?


No, I don’t know exactly what students and parents see. I presume it’s a lot like what I have agreed to. I haven’t made it through all of this year’s training but so far it is similar to the last training I took. It might be exactly the same, I don’t remember that well.

There is a resource on signage for events and it is the code of conduct and does not say anything about photos.

I summarize my working view of FIRST Privacy Policy that they take people’s privacy seriously. No video or audio can be used unless the subjects have given permission. And once permission is granted anything nice can be done with video or audio.

I see how my team takes video/photographs and I see no practical way to make an exception for anyone to be excluded from video or photos at team meetings or events. We have students participate in radio and TV and they all want to go to FRC competitions. Everyone is taking photos of everything and posting them.

The Notice to Parents from the coaches does say:
"We will try to accommodate any restrictions you may require and will inform you if we are unable to do so."
and of course that applies to me as a mentor to follow those rules.

I’ve done pretty well handling special students with a variety of needs but I have to admit I’d give up trying to accommodate parents who didn’t give permission to make images of their students. Fortunately for me I’m not the person responsible for getting parents to agree and I am not the team historian/photographer and I don’t invite the students to events where they might be photographed be it the local car show or the FRC competitions.

Since you asked me the question you have something in mind and if you share it with me I can be on the watch for any concerns as I finish up my mentor training. I’ll ask the coach if there is anything sent to the parents that I should know about but isn’t in my FIRST training agenda (that would be an oversight on the part of FIRST, though). Thanks for the provocative question.

I’m not Costco hotdog certain of what Costco hotdog certain means.


The $1.50 Costco Hot Dog combo remains as more of a certainty in our universe than 99c AriZona Iced Tea.


Several FRC Districts also require consent and release forms for team members to attend competitions, so the issue is also more complex than just a FIRST HQ problem.

It’s possible to accommodate someone for in-team events. If a sponsored outreach event will be extensively filmed or photographed, the student might have to stay home or limit their participation, but there are definitely reasonable accommodations for this. Competitions are a much different beast.

Personally, I do feel bad about handling the situation by saying “you can’t come to events”, but it’s such a hassle to try to do media at events if specific people can’t be videoed/photographed. Events are streamed and visual media is essential to promoting FIRST. Media consent is a big problem for films that are filmed in public places. Going through footage to check for non-consenting people so you can blur it or scrap it is immensely time consuming and a huge liability. I don’t see a viable approach to solve this that isn’t just a form of exclusion.

If you can’t be or don’t want to be on camera, you unfortunately need to avoid large public or semi-public events.

The closest thing to a “reasonable accommodation” that I can think of would be if FIRST instituted a “media free morning” for the first few matches on one day of each event. Maybe stream a tight view of the field with driver stations and crowd cropped out, and cut the cameras during load-in and field resets. FIRST would probably still have to get media consent (or implicit consent from posted signs) just in case, but the media free time could be provided as a best-effort alternative option for individuals with less strict needs for media privacy.

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This likely doesn’t apply to activity in the build space (or at least it’s much more of a grey area), but events are public and anyone can legally publish pictures from a public event without permission from people in those pictures. (unless that event specifically ask people not to take pictures) So I don’t think we should worry about accidentally getting the wrong people in media from events. And anyone who is really concerned about pictures being published basically needs to stay out of events or any other public space to have any legal protection.

Probably a bad idea to publish event pictures of students who have asked not to be in media, but you would probably be legally fine.

(I’m not a lawyer, I just hang out with a bunch of them.)

As far as what to actually do about people not signing media releases, I second all the people saying talk to the parents/students. I think it’s more important to have good relations with people than a piece of paper saying you’re ok.

I had this happen with an FTC student one year due to a legal and safety thing. We blurred out their face in any pictures we posted or sent to anyone and they had a little drawing instead of their picture in the engineering notebook. The competition wasn’t much of an issue because it wasn’t livestreamed. The student and the mom were really good at looking for cameras and turning around when needed. FRC is a bit trickier, but if it is really a safety issue, there is always the option of masks. Or put them in the mascot costume.


There are certain “fair use” laws that may apply to these situations. Such as when in public spaces there is no expectation of privacy, therefore if you take a picture and do not specifically identify the subject, it can be considered “fair use”. Or if it’s for newsworthy or educational purposes. But it is a definite gray area, and children are often not included in that.

There are also reality TV shows (and other shows that don’t have “closed sets”) that will simply wear a shirt or button that informs people that if they wish to “opt out” to contact them. (And they will blur your image) But again, children are typically blurred unless their parent signs a release.

FIRST actually stays in the gray area. While the C&R form gives permission for the students image to be used, it does not give permission for their siblings who may be “caught” in the image. Nor spectators that just came to watch as they sit with their friends in the stands.

This is where the “opt out” comes into play. Typically the injured party must ask you to remove the offending photo from your promotional materials. If you don’t, and you don’t have a signed release, then you could be in trouble. If you do, the mater is considered settled and they can’t do anything more.

The issue here is that by checking that they do not give permission, they have already asked you to remove any pictures you will have and it’s on you to be sure those students are not in them. (Blurred is considered removed. So you can take a normal team photo and blur the individual kids and put the disclaimer that “some individual students where blurred at the request of their parent/ guardians”)

But I would make sure to inform them to carefully read FIRST’s Consent &Release form because I don’t think it gives the option to “opt out”.* You either sign or don’t sign. And if you don’t sign you can’t sign up to a team. That doesn’t mean they can’t attend meetings and everything else, but FIRST will not automatically filter them from their photos. (And neither will other teams or photographers) And it will be on the parents to search all photos and request (to each person posting them) they be taken down.

What really concerns me is that the parents might think that by checking that box it will be YOUR responsibility to make sure no one else posts pictures of them too.

*I just implemented a release forms for our new JR High FTC team because I realized most are so young and still restricted from Normal social media things. But I think we will start using it in the HS too. It’s just good practice.

Our form is also a sign or don’t sign and part of a packet that must be signed to join the team. If a parent wishes to speak to me about their concerns on signing it, I have no problem with that. But to just allow them to check a box to opt out without a conversation is basically ignoring the current world we live in. Where any one at any time could be on any web page for any reason. And it takes a lot more vigilance than checking a box to make sure they’re not.