I have become aware of a recent incident of a teenager in a public secondary school in south Tenerife who took a photo of the board on which an exercise was written down. The idea was that the child could take home the exercise, have it printed out, and do it as homework. Unfortunately the teacher was in the photo … and the end result is that the child was suspended from school for the maximum ten days and told it was fortunate that the teacher was not taking legal action.

This is a genuine incident, and involves a child whose mother is a fully-integrated and fluent Spanish speaker who communicated a detailed account and explanation in writing to the school as part of the appeal procedure; moreover, the teacher in the photo was half-facing the board, so identification was hardly possible. The teacher personally did not seem to mind, and actually disagreed with what appears simply to have been an extreme over-reaction by the school. It was, however, within rules concerning data and personal protection that are governed by law, and the parent is aware that technically phones are not allowed; nonetheless, the parent is given to understand that disciplinary decisions are taken by teachers not known to the child and without input from the child’s tutor, and that although what happened is an infraction, suspension should really only become the penalty on the fourth offence, and then only for three days.

If you have a child who will be taking a phone to school, please tell them that if they must take photos, these absolutely must not contain images of other individuals. In this case, another teacher saw the working out on the printout, and it was clear that the printout was of a photo taken by the child. The school seems clearly to have gone over the top in this respect, but given that schools apparently only have suspension as a possible punishment, as opposed to UK schools where a range of sanctions such as lines or detention can be employed, it is a stress that is simply not worth it if it can be avoided. For your children’s own sake, please ensure that they understand they absolutely must not include teachers in any photos they might take.

Source: Janet Anscombe

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