August 26, 2021

The Lede

Masks and Politics: You thought the disputes were over, didn’t you?

Welcome to the 2020-21 school year! What’s that you say? It’s now the 2021-22 school year?

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

Well, we here at the Scroll are having a hard time distinguishing the difference, especially when we read stories like this one from ProPublica about a child with an autoimmune disorder having to skip school again this year because the state where he lives (Florida) doesn’t allow schools and school districts to institute mask mandates for students, faculty and staff.


The most interesting paragraphs (and data) come from the story’s nut graphs:

“Nationwide, about 7.3 million students have significant disabilities that impact their education. About 15% of these students receive special education services for health conditions that limit their ability to learn, which include common conditions like diabetes, asthma or epilepsy, as well as rare disorders.”


“Chronic diseases affect millions of children nationwide. For example, more than 6 million kids suffer from asthma, over 200,000 live with Type 1 diabetes and more than 14 million are obese.”

Here’s what you can do

Those numbers sound significant, especially when you consider the Centers for Disease Control have reported that “evidence suggests that children with medical complexity, with genetic, neurologic, metabolic conditions, or with congenital heart disease can be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.”

Writing about specific students without their family’s permission is a violation of health-care privacy laws, but in the case of the boy in the ProPublica story, they wrote about his condition because they obtained permission from the boy’s family.

A good story would help people clarify district rules and how they may collide with state law, as well as how many students in your school fall into the “at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.” That’s probably going to require some math and research, so don’t hesitate to find and interview experts on the law, on medicine and on the numbers of immuno-compromised students in the district.

With all the disinformation out there about the efficacy of COVID vaccines, the Delta variant and the value of masks, you can provide your school and classmates a great service.

How about a history lesson?

What’s unfolding in Afghanistan with the United States’ evacuation of troops, U.S. civilians and authorized “vulnerable” Afghans — those who fear retribution from the Taliban — may make for great in-the-moment television news coverage, but it’s also a great chance for you as journalists to think about providing your audiences with a short history lesson of a war that has lasted longer than almost every high school student’s life.

When then-President George W. Bush ordered an invasion of Afghanistan in 2002, most of the country was behind the effort, thinking it was the appropriate reaction to the attacks on the U.S. on Sept. 11, 2001.

The intervening 19 years haven’t been so good for the U.S., and when both former President Trump and President Biden took steps to finally withdraw troops from the country, the movement that the U.S. tried to prevent from being in power, took power almost immediately upon Biden’s announcement. Still, more than 87,000 people have been evacuated thus far.

Here’s what you can do

Begin with this timeline from the Council on Foreign Relations and start to build a story that uses personal histories along with key events from the past 19 years.

Do you have students whose parents or brothers or cousins served in Afghanistan? How do they feel about how war evolved over the past two decades? Do you have Afghan families in your school or communities? What is their view of their country and the U.S. involvement there? 

Whatever you decide to do, help people understand the complexity of the original decision to invade and all of the events that led up to where we are now. Don’t just focus on the hectic last-minute departure of evacuees.

It’s An Honor

Gallup Award Winners announced Sept. 2!

Check out our Twitter feed on Thursday, Sept. 2 at noon ET to find out which news publications and/or websites have earned the coveted Gallup Award, which signifies the best student journalism in the world.

Student Advisory Board applications due

Do you want to serve your fellow student journalists and Quill and Scroll members? Join the Q&S Student Advisory Board for 2021-22. The application deadline is Sept. 30.

SAB members will work on projects including establishing a regular communications channel for editors and other student journalists to discuss problems, successes, and yearbook and news coverage; and working on seminars that can aid Quill and Scroll chapters.

Yearbook Excellence Contest deadline is Oct. 10

It sure is. Thirty categories, including pandemic coverage, and two classes of schools highlight the 2021 Q&S Yearbook Excellence Contest. The deadline is more than a month away (Oct. 10), but what better way to have your students critique last year’s book than by choosing the best entries for the world’s premier yearbook contest? (Answer: There isn’t a better way.)

Alumni service

Have you ever wondered if there’s someone like Fred “Mr.” Rogers (Greater Latrobe HS, 1946) or Debra Messing (East Greenwich HS, 1986) among your school’s Quill and Scroll alumni? How about journalists, writers and teachers such as Ryan Foley, Barbara Tholen, Dan Fellner, and Chris Barton?  Famous film critic Roger Ebert (Urbana HS, 1960) was inducted too. Quill and Scroll has the names of every student ever inducted into your school’s Q&S chapter. Those names are easy to access from the period 2004-2021, but it takes a little longer to get those names between 1926 and 2003, when all memberships were recorded on cards that now reside in the basement of the Adler Journalism Building here at the University of Iowa.

If you’re interested in building a list of distinguished journalism alumni from your school, just contact [email protected] and use the phrase “Q&S ALUMNI LIST” in your subject line. 

For a cost of $50/hour, we’ll retrieve those names and sort them for you by year of induction and get them back to you in time for a fundraising dinner or a special ceremony celebrating student journalism at your school.

What’s Viral?

Cotton Bag Waste

Production and use of cotton bags may be doing more harm than good

It’s the age-old question: paper or plastic. Nowadays, it seems to be reusable bags or plastic… and the answer seems simple. Yet, recent investigations into the environmental impact of reusable (and ever popular) cotton tote bags revealed the bags may be more trendy than effective.

The bags were originally popularized to overtake the plastic bag industry in the retail market. Now, they’re provided and sold by retailers as advertisements, featuring fun and recognizable branding that come as incentives for consumers. The bags sole purpose has been reshaped – and overdone – to a level that may harm the environment rather than help it.

While cotton is biodegradable, the dyes used in decorating these bags are not. According to The New York Times, “And only 15 percent of the 30 million tons of cotton produced every year actually makes its way to textile depositories.”

Bags that make it to a treatment plant to be repurposed have to be torn and can only be used in part. What was thought of as an environmentally friendly solution to carrying your every day goods is now contributing to environmental waste and product overconsumption.

Here’s what you can do:

Next time you’re offered a free disposable bag with your purchase, politely decline – you probably have multiple cotton bags stuffed under your bed or in a cupboard, anyway. Make a point to reuse those bags before purchasing or accepting a new one. Take them to the grocery store, retail shopping, to school, to extracurricular activities… really, any time you need to carry something, throw it in a cotton bag.

Additionally, research textile depositories in your area. See if it’s possible for you to recycle an unwanted or unused bags. Can you use a cotton bag in replacement of something paper? How about wrapping your next gift in a cotton bag rather than a plastic gift bag?

The key here is intentionality. If you need it, buy it. If you don’t, and you have one at home, use it.

Kanye becomes “Ye”

Rapper files to legally change his full name

Kanye West filed court documents Tuesday requesting his legal name – currently Kanye Omari West – be changed to Ye. Just Ye: no middle or last name. West has referred to himself as “Ye” since 2018, including his 2018 self-titled album.

West, of course, is not the first celebrity to prefer a singular name. Stars like Rihanna, Drake, Beyoncé, Lizzo, and many others go professionally by a single name. All, however, are still legally registered under their birth names.

West’s court filing will be reviewed under the Los Angeles Superior Court.

What you should understand about it

Legally changing your name is a big deal. It’s expensive, time consuming, and a multiple step process that varies by state. However, it can be done! Both minors and adults can legally change their name for around $150 once proper procedure has been followed (this includes submitting birth registration information and your social security number).

When someone chooses to change their name — legally or formally — respect their choice! Some may be open to answering questions about their switch in moniker, but others may just want to ease into the new name. Be open and receptive.

‘Good 4 U’ gets an update

Olivia Rodrigo cites Paramore in retroactive credit

What was at once obvious to some fans, “Sour” singer Olivia Rodrigo has credited Paramore band members Hayley Williams and Josh Farro on her 2021 smash hit “Good 4 U.” The song bares resemblance to Paramore’s 2007 song, “Misery Business.” And while Rodrigo was only four when the song came out, the similarities between the two tracks are uncanny. Fans immediately ran to TikTok to compare the two songs.


olivia has entered her 2000s pop punk girl era and i’m here for it ##fyp ##oliviarodrigo ##good4u ##paramore ##pop ##remix ##mashup ##miserybusiness

♬ good 4 ur misery business by Adamusic – Adam Wright

The retroactive credit is just the second given to the “Sour” album, including credits to Taylor Swift and cowriters on the song, “Déjà Vu.” Courtney Love took issue with the “Sour Prom” album cover for its resemblance to the singer’s 1994 album, “Live Through This.” The claim has since been removed on Instagram.

While the album continues to soar on the charts and skyrockets Rodrigo to pop superstardom, it’s important to recognize those sites and sounds that influenced its creation.

Here’s what you can do:

It’s important to give credit where credit’s due. That lesson can be taken into every work space in your life! Whether it be school, extracurricular or creative endeavors, make sure to own where you found an idea. Oftentimes, recognizing that you’ve taken inspiration from a past work is much simpler than dealing with the consequences of plagiarism.

Review your school’s plagiarism statement. Usually, this can be found within your school’s handbook. Work to incorporate proper citations and credits to any work you looked at while working on a project: whether it be for inspiration or support.

Just A Thought

Meet Q&S: student staff introductions

Sylvia Clubb

Communications Coordinator Sylvia Clubb tells you why Q&S

For those of you who don’t know me, hello! My name is Sylvia, and I am a fourth-year student at The University of Iowa studying Journalism and Mass Communications and English. This is my third year working for Quill and Scroll, and I currently serve as the Communications Coordinator (or tweeter, or email answerer, or order packager, or record finder, etc.).

You may be wondering, what is a college senior doing working for a high school journalism association? We’ll get to that.

Simply put, I crave worthwhile experiences. And, I love journalism.

During my junior year of high school, I served as a news writer for my high school’s bi-weekly newspaper. Senior year, I tackled the role of Editor-in-Chief for that 45-person staff. My experiences in that classroom fueled my desire to earn a degree in journalism and work to bring that education into a corporate sector. Currently, I serve as a Senior Editor, Fiction Editor, and Blog Chair for three other student organizations at The University of Iowa. I’m looking forward to graduating in May of 2022 with two degrees and a future in Strategic Communications.

I can attest that it’s important to fill your resume with experiences that will not only aid you in securing a job in your desired field, but also mean more than a few bullet points on a resume. That’s what I’ve found here at Quill and Scroll.

I am the face behind the screen that sorts your contest entries, prints your certificates, and views your winning pieces. I also communicate with our judges and circle of journalism professionals, interview your advisers, and put together content that (I hope!) you find worthwhile.

Quill and Scroll offers a multitude of opportunities to expand your abilities. From our contests, to our podcasts, to our scholarships, there are countless ways for current and future journalism students to get involved in their local and peer communities. What can be found in Quill and Scroll is hard to find in other student organizations in national high schools: an endeavor, and spirit, of truth.

The opportunities presented here rely on the spirit of learning. Learning to be better, do better or lead better. This organization can be a focal point in your life: with truth, learning, leadership, loyalty, initiative, integrity, judgement and friendship in mind, Quill and Scroll transcends the walls of your journalism classroom and teaches you principles to live by.

Entering contests places you in alliance with students across the world – not competition. You’re given the opportunity to learn from your peers and the inspiration to tackle bigger and better stories. Additionally, proper use of our resources elevates even the simplest of your photography, writing and design skills.

It truly is an honor to be a part of this organization. Wear your pin with pride and cherish your graduation cord. Membership here is for a lifetime. When inducted, advisers trust that you’ll uphold Quill and Scroll’s principles pat graduation and into the workforce. You’re in good company.