Once, our yearbooks were replaced because the last set of pages fell out due to a manufacturing defect (and I now have two from that year because friends had signed both). I don't ever remember our yearbooks being recalled, though, especially not for the reasons of this Texas high school (article here):
The district said in a statement Friday that it wanted to honor its Special Education Program by dedicating a section to it inside the yearbook.
But Laura Jobe, a spokeswoman for the district, said a passage in the section came under question, MyFoxDFW.com reports.
It read "Some of the disabilities the students in the Special Education Program have are being blind, deaf or non-verbal … (students' names) are both blind and deaf, as well as mentally retarded."
The district declared that the section must be removed since the school did not obtain parents' permission to run photos of their students inside it -- a requirement by law --MyFoxDFW.com reports.
|Exercise extra caution in posting information or image online.|
At our church, we never share details or diagnosis with anyone who isn't directly serving the child, youth, or adult in question. Even then, the information is given on a need-to-know basis. For example, none of us need to know the exact diagnosis of our guests at Joy Prom, so we don't ask for that information at any point. For children and youth on Sunday mornings or at respite, we find that it is helpful to know a diagnosis because (a) if a medical emergency occurred at respite and the parents were unavailable, some diagnostic information could be valuable in treatment and (b) some parents we serve are not able to articulate information about their child's special needs and a diagnosis is helpful in those cases. We have a confidentiality statement that we require all volunteers to sign before they can receive specific information - including disability-specific details - about someone in our ministry. We NEVER disclose a diagnosis in print, with one exception being when our church newsletter shared a family's story - with their involvement and mostly in their own words - about God's work in their lives through their son's challenges.
When it comes to pictures of our friends with special needs, we include a statement at the end of our Access Ministry intake form requesting permission to do so for ministry purposes. Some individual, parents, or caregivers choose not to initial that statement, and we honor that. I personally examine all event pictures - like ones from respite night - to make sure none include those individuals before I pass them along to our church's communications team. And when I posted a picture of Kelsey with a Joy Prom guest whose caretaker had given written permission, I used photo editing software to blur his nametag so I wasn't sharing identifying information.
That school in Texas seemed to have good intentions, wanting to highlight a oft-ignored group of their school's population by including them in the yearbook. I'm sure your church has good intentions too. I hope this post encourages you to use God's wisdom in how you share about what you're doing in special needs ministry, that every person in your church is treated with the dignity bestowed on them by their Creator and that you may not set any stumbling blocks in the way of those who do not yet know Christ.