If a teacher makes a writing assignment for students (some would be minors), can the teacher use those writings as examples in the future?

The teacher would examine the writings and provide analysis for future students to learn from. Quotes from the students’ writings would be verbatim WITHOUT the name of the students.

Are there copyright laws or ethical plagiarism rules being violated? Does the teacher need to have permission from the students (or parents) before anonymously using their writings?

  • 2
    Best practices is for the teacher to ask permission from the students first (this is how colleagues handle it.)
    – SFWriter
    May 2, 2018 at 3:49

2 Answers 2


Everyone, including pupils, owns the copyright to their own writing. It does not matter whether those writings were assignments.

In similar cases, courts of law have ruled that college and university students own the copyright to the papers etc. they hand in as assignments, and that their professors must not use them without permission.

Now the question is whether showing essays to other pupils counts as publication, and whether there are special laws that exempt the teacher from copyright in such a case.

My hunch would be that the teacher needs to ask the authors of the papers for permission, but I am not a lawyer and to be sure you need to ask one.


My university lecturer from 8 years back emailed just last week to ask if she could use an assignment I wrote for a magazine article she's having published. I have no intention of ever publishing that piece myself, so I gave her permission, which she now has in writing.

And that's really the crux. It's not as if you're publishing work that they may need exclusivity over further down the line. But, as @Cloudchaser says, you might want to get some legal advice to be sure, and you could always try the legal Stack Exchange site as a start - they've been very helpful to me in the past.

To be honest, I was pretty flattered that she wanted to publish my work, so I wouldn't dream of going back and laying plagiarism accusations at her door. But, she is giving me credit for the piece in the article.

You definitely need permission. In the case of minors from both the student and the parent and make sure it's in writing. It's their work after all. The WITHOUT names may complicate the situation rather than making it easier because you aren't giving credit to the person who wrote it. Depending on how crucial that is, you could ask if they want to remain anonymous or be given credit for the work by having their name included.

You'll probably find that they're flattered you want to use their work and will give you permission without any fuss.

Edit: Did a quick Stack search and found this, it's very helpful:


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