Ohio lawmaker demands answers on why pictures of teenagers from his district appear on website pushed by Noem

KELOLAND.com Original

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Just a day after a new coalition, Defend Title IX Now, was debuted by Governor Kristi Noem at a Sioux Falls news conference, there are questions about images used on the website.

According to Ohio State Representative Casey Weinstein (D), the girls featured in the photos are students from Hudson, Ohio, and other neighboring communities. The website itself is registered in Ohio, but KELOLAND News has been unable to identify the registrant. We have also reached out to the domain provider for that information, without success.

KELOLAND News spoke to Weinstein, who has made public requests to Governor Noem to have the photos of the kids removed from the site.

Weinstein says he has spoken to the Hudson City School District; officials told him that they had not given permission for the website to use images of their students or their logos.

The school district also confirmed this in an email to KELOLAND News:

The photos/images being used by the South Dakota Governor’s “Defend Title IX Now” coalition and its affiliates were scrubbed from the internet without consent. The purpose of our students being photographed during competition is to honor our high school players as student athletes and to celebrate their accomplishments. We do not condone the images being used for any other purpose. Neither our school district, nor our student athletes, who are minors, are associated with the South Dakota Governor’s initiative.

Our District logo, name, and school colors are clearly visible, which reflects our trademarked brand and the misuse of that brand.

The Hudson City School District strongly objects to these photos being used by the South Dakota Governor’s Coalition in a political endeavor. Our district attorney and our State Representative have asked the South Dakota Governor’s Office and its coalition host website to remove the photos of these children, our students, from their website.

Hudson City School District

Weinstein says that he has not received a response from Governor Noem since tweeting, but that he plans to continue attempting to communicate through more official channels.

Weinstein says he is sending a formal letter to Noem’s office and that he expects a prompt reply.

“Beyond that,” he says, “we will file a freedom of information act (FOIA) to find out how this information got there.”

KELOLAND News also reached out to Noem’s office and received this response from her communications director:

The website is not run by the State. The web developer obtained the rights to all the photographs. They reflect the very girls that Governor Noem’s coalition is fighting to protect.

Ian Fury, Communications Director for the Office of the Governor

The web developer’s identity is not currently known. The domain was created and purchased March 21, through godaddy.com, and a request to them for more information was denied. The Governor’s office has also not responded to a request for more information on the web developer.

Noem stated during her Monday news conference that her new coalition is not using any taxpayer money, and that no state funds are going to it and no state resources are going to it. Weinstein expressed some doubt on this claim.

A news release about the coalition was posted on the South Dakota government official state news site. Fury was also present at the news conference on Monday.

Aside from issues relating to privacy, Weinstein says he is concerned about the potential effect that such use of these images could have on the children pictured.

“In the case of these kids, now their images are on this website, and the internet is forever; and it’s easily searchable. I worry that it could be used against them down the road, that they were unwittingly put on this site for a transphobic campaign against LGBT rights,” Wenstein said.

Asked if he had anything to say to Governor Noem, Weinstein told us this.

Some of the images originally featured on the website have now been removed, but it is unclear if this is due to the outcry. At the time of this story, the site still features three separate images of teenage athletes.

Little is currently known about the coalition itself. In her initial introduction of it, Noem said that there are other leaders, but so far no other public officials have been tied to it. There are no social media pages affiliated with the coalition, and the website itself consists of one page, asking visitors to add their names and emails to defend Title IX.

Weinstein says he’s concerned with the privacy issues that surround the use of photos of the student athletes.

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