California high school rejects parents’ $1.5 million claim over ‘unauthorized’ photos

The San Dieguito Union High School District this month rejected a $1.5 million claim filed by the parents of a 16-year-old girl who posed in her underwear for photos in a high school literary magazine.

The claim sought damages for “defamation, invasion of privacy, inadequate supervision, sexual harassment and related damages all stemming from unauthorized nude photographs…” appearing in Torrey Pines High School’s Dialogue Spring 2005 First Flight.

The parents’ attorney, Daniel Gilleon, told The San Diego Union-Tribune that they plan to proceed with a lawsuit against the school district.

The pictures feature the girl in question, Monterey Salka, and two other students posing in their underwear or wearing flesh-colored tank tops. No genitals or breasts appear in the images. In two images, Monterey Salka appears to be topless, but her hair is covering her breasts.

Gilleon said Salka, who has done professional modeling in the past, regrets posing for the photos.

The claim stated that at no point were Salka or her parents asked to provide consent for the pictures’ publication. The Salkas also contend they would not have given consent to publish the photos.

Dan Shinoff, the school district’s lawyer, said the entire claim is baseless.

“I think these youngsters knowingly participated in this issue,” he said. “She’s a model. She’s all over the Internet. For someone who seeks notoriety for her own image this is very interesting.”

Superintendent Peggy Lynch said that despite the claim, she did not anticipate any changes in how the district handles student publications.

SPLC View: There is a growing consensus among courts that minors can validly consent to an invasion of their privacy, particularly in cases where no money is involved, as long as they have the ability to understand what they are doing and can appreciate the consequences of their actions. Therefore, if it can be shown that the 16-year-old student here (who, it is noteworthy, had done some professional modeling) voluntarily posed for the photos, none of which are – on their face – unlawful, and that she understood the photos were to be published in the student literary magazine, which would be seen by both her classmates and others, the court should find that she lawfully consented to the publication. For more information on the issue of minor consent, check out the Winter 2005-06 issue of the SPLC Report, which should be in your mailbox in the next week.