Inappropriate’ school photos leads to arrest in Montevallo

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 21, 2002

A Montevallo woman was convicted recently of third degree theft of property stemming from a confrontation with Montevallo Middle School officials over photos of four eighth graders deemed too risqu by the Shelby County Board of Education.

Vicky Nelson was arrested April 18, according to a Montevallo police report, for stealing a set of photos that her daughter and three other girls took during the school’s annual spring photo session.

Nelson was convicted of the charge in Montevallo’s municipal court and faces a $666 fine.

According to school officials, students at the school are allowed to have individual photos made by the school’s professional photographer for a prepaid fee.

The students also are allowed personal photos, such as group photos, for an additional prepaid fee.

The police report said when the photos were delivered, Nelson came to the school to view a set of pictures taken of the four girls that school principal Johnny McClain viewed as &uot;inappropriate.&uot;

The report states Nelson took the photos from the principal’s desk in opposition to his decision.

McClain then called the police and requested the police contact Nelson to retrieve the photos, which were valued at eight dollars.

Montevallo Police Chief Steve Southerland said a Montevallo officer contacted Nelson and was told she would return the photos no later than the next morning.

He said that attempt and another later attempt to retrieve the photos were unsuccessful.

McClain, Southerland said, then signed a warrant for Nelson’s arrest.

McClain said the pictures clearly violated the school’s policy.

&uot;They were wearing very revealing halter tops with their stomachs showing,&uot; he said. &uot;That’s wrong.&uot;

The girls changed their clothes, McClain said, after their individual pictures were taken.

He said a library aide spotted the girls after the pictures were already taken.

&uot;Three moms came to the school and didn’t see anything wrong with the pictures,&uot; he said. &uot;We refused to give them the photos.&uot;

The pictures were not the first pictures at the school to be withheld, McClain said, noting the school previously had a problem with students flashing gang signs during personal photos.

He said he reluctantly signed the warrant for Nelson’s arrest.

&uot;You can’t let someone walk in and take something and walk out,&uot; McClain said.

Nelson said she feels the situation was handled poorly.

&uot;My problem is they shouldn’t have let the students take the photos in the first place,&uot; Nelson said. &uot;It’s a mess.&uot;

She said she was told by the girls that an assistant principal watched as they took the photos and had no objection.

Nelson said she only refused to return the photos, a 5 by 7 and six wallets, after the school would not refund her money.

She said her daughter was allowed to keep a set of photos showing her with a boy’s arm around her waist.

&uot;I’m dead against a 13-year-old taking a picture with a boy’s arm around her at that age,&uot; she said. &uot;They gave her those without a problem.&uot;

Nelson said she plans to appeal the court’s decision