As an art teacher for six years now, H.S. level, I agree with you. Junior
and Senior High school students want a degree of realism in their work, even
though we teach them abstract art and abstract concepts. Using photo
references in their work is OK as long as they are not submitting the work as
original art work. That is, in the course of student projects in the
classroom it's OK to use a picture of a bear from National Geographic, change
it slightly, but still use the bear picture as reference.
Dennis in Stockton