High school is meant to be a time of self-discovery, a time when an individual can explore interests and develop them into lifelong skill sets. Texas teen Anthony Mazur, however, has found himself in the midst of a legal battle with his school administration, simply for following his passion, photography.
Amassing a portfolio of 4,000 photographs through his work with the student newspaper, Mazur began posting his work on a Flickr account and even managed to sell a few portraits to his subjects’ parents.
But now the Flower Mound High School sophomore is now being threatened with suspension for posting and selling his pictures online.
According to Fox4 News, after catching wind of his entrepreneurial enterprise, school administrators pulled Mazur out of class and demanded that he remove all pictures from the site or risk in-school suspension and a ban from all extracurricular activities.
“He’s like, ‘I’m asking you to take the website down. I’m not asking you to return the money you made. I won’t report you to the IRS for not paying taxes,’” said Mazur.
He was later forced into signing an Administrative Directive with his parents and had to remove his entire portfolio from the web.
My name is Anthony Mazur, and I’m a sophomore at Flower Mound High School. At the start of this school year, I joined yearbook class, and quickly fell in love with photography, particularly sports photography. I’d go to every game I could and learn as much as possible. I never knew that one day it might launch a future career into photojournalism and content creation.
My yearbook class asked me to take a trip down to San Antonio, where the Texas Association of Journalism Educators held a conference, inviting schools from all over Texas to listen to speakers, experts, and professionals give advice during classes and seminars about journalism, photography, and design. For the $100 I was asked to pay to go on the trip, I think it was well worth it. In one of the classes I took at the conference, the speakers, a journalism teacher from Argyle and her student now working as an intern for the Dallas Morning News, told us the student began selling his work to media outlets and organizations, and telling us how photographers own the work that we shoot.
At the end of the class, I approached the teacher confused, and asked that because I was using a school camera, and using a school press pass, do I still own my pictures? She replied that I did. From that day on, that student and teacher from Argyle inspired me. I was filled with joy; I realized fully that this may be something I wanted to do for the rest of my life. It was my passion. So, I started selling my pictures to parents, tried licensing them to news organizations and get internships to learn as much as possible. It felt great to receive such amazing support from parents, players, and friends. I believed I found my place. One day, that all changed…
I was sitting in chemistry class when a blue office slip was delivered to me. A principal wanted to see me. When I entered the principal’s office, he asked me to close the door, and on his computer screen was my Flickr website where I posted all my pictures. Angrily, he told me I had to take it down, that I didn’t own my pictures, that what I was doing was illegal. I told him about Argyle, about the trip, about US Federal Copyright Law, which states whoever takes the picture owns the picture and can sell it. He didn’t listen. Instead, he threw stacks of papers in front of me, threatened me with ISS (In-School Suspension), banning me from school activities, games, and from school camera equipment.
In addition, he gave me a concealed threat about asking for any money that I made off the site be returned to the school. He also made reference to reporting me to the IRS. Alone in a room facing him, with him threatening me like this, I’ve never felt so coerced before. In a later meeting with my parents, we were forced to sign an Administrative Directive agreeing to take my website down as to not have In-School-Suspension appear on my record.
According to reports, Administrators claim that because the equipment Mazur used belonged to the school, the photographs belong to it is as well and he had no right to sell or post any of them. The school went on to claim that that Mazur’s work “violated students’ privacy by posting their image.”
Mazur’s family is currently awaiting the response from its appeal to the Superintendent of Lewisville Independent School District. The family’s first appeal to the principals of Flower Mound High School was denied according to PetaPixel News.
The District’s Board Policy Manual states “a student shall retain all rights to work created as part of the instruction or using District technology resources.”
Now the school district must prove there is a reasonable expectation of privacy within the school when surveillance cameras are already monitoring the hallways of most schools as we photographs and videos being taken regularly by students with their own cameras.
It also begs the question that since Flower Mound is part of a public school district, how much legal “privacy” can a student enrolled in such an institution expect?
We understand students have an expectation of privacy inside bathrooms and locker rooms, but that doesn’t seem to apply to hallways and athletic fields.
Despite all the commotion surrounding him, Mazur remains firm in his resolve, buying a personal camera and soldiering on in the continued pursuit of a passion. He has received a great deal of support from the online photography community, inspiring the #IAmAnthony solidarity campaign.
Mazur is a talented photographer as you can see through his photos on his Twitter feed, which evidently hasn’t been ordered to shutdown by his school principal.
Below is a video interview of Mazur.