The way it goes is, you can take a picture of anyone and publish it w/o their permission as long as they are in a public place.
If they are in a private place, such as a home or if they are at a place of business, you must have their permission.
The reason TV (news, etc) get you to sign a release is so they don't owe you anything!
In the situation of high school photos being published.. the author probably has permission from the school to use the images. That's all the permission she/he needs.
I shot pictures at the Oklahoma bombing and have tons of pictures of folks just wandering around. I can and have published them w/o any fear.
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