January 24, 2022

The Lede

Can we say “gay”?

Florida legislature discusses bills that would prohibit discussion of LGBTQ issues in elementary schools

Will Florida become the first “Don’t Say ‘Gay’ in the Schools” state?

Companion bills in both the Florida Senate and House of Representatives that would prohibit the discussion of LGBTQ issues in Florida public schools have been introduced, and the House bill moved out of committee last week and now will be discussed on the whole House of Representatives floor. The Senate bill hasn’t reached that stage.

They key phrase in both bills: “prohibiting a school district from encouraging classroom discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity in primary grade levels or in a specified manner.” Parents who suspect their children are being taught about gender identity and sexual orientation can sue the school district if either of the bills become law.

Here’s what you can do:

What do curricula in your community’s elementary schools introduce to students about gender identity and sexual orientation? How do students react to that? What are the problems that can arise from that, if any?

What do educational psychologists have to say? Do children 12 and younger need to know about gender identity and sexual orientation? Is it truly harmful to have students exposed to reality based on their ages?

This also brings up the overall governing structure of public schools. If a certain subset of parents objects to certain lessons, how much power do they have to coerce curriculum changes? How can this affect teachers’ autonomy to bring their own knowledge and expertise to the classroom? Isn’t that what a Parent/Teacher Association is supposed to do? Isn’t this a local school board’s job, not a state legislature’s?

If parents in your communities feel as if the public schools aren’t supporting their belief systems, do they not have adequate alternatives available in the form of religious schools, charter schools and private schools?

One act at a time

California attempts to bridge education gap by exchanging volunteer hours for tuition

Money for doing public service as a high school student? Sound inviting? It just may happen in California.

In an effort to give less wealthy California high schoolers the opportunity to go to college, Gov. Gavin Newsom, D-CA, introduced a program that could allow students to exchange community service for tuition. 

Selected students would need to complete 450 hours of community service a year in order to receive $10,000 for college tuition. 450 hours averages out to roughly 38 hours a month — or 19 consecutive days if that’s how you’d like to do it. One catch is that community services areas are restricted to K-12 education, COVID-19 recovery, and climate action.

In addition to the money, these hours can be turned into class credit.

Here’s what you can do:

How about a story about the continuing rise of the cost of college education? Here’s a set of data to start with, and you can search specifically for the costs in your state. It also allows you to learn about the cost of other things college students spend money on, including books, loans, room and board.

How are the juniors and seniors at your school planning to pay for their college education? Would a program such as the California governor’s help in your school and state?

No rookies at this rookery

Minnesota students protest against development plans

Generation Z cares more about the environment than older generations. We know that.

Last week in Minnesota, students rallied to show how much they care.

About 70 students in Rochester held a rally to preserve a great blue heron nesting site on Tuesday. The students came together after they were not allowed to speak at a board meeting where they unanimously accepted a development plan on the site where dozens of heron nests exist.

International Properties LLC proposed a 10-lot housing development called Pavillion Estates on a 17-acre wooded lot. The lot contains much of the nesting site, known as a rookery, which comprises more than three dozen great blue heron nests.

Seniors at John Marshall High school and members of the school’s environmental club, spoke to the crowd to encourage support in a fight against the development and to preserve what one student called a unique natural resource and a key area of biodiversity.

Here’s what you can do:

When covering a protest you want to remember to be an observer rather than a participate (no cheering when you agree with something or booing when you don’t) in order to be the unbiased face of the media.

Additionally, you want to talk to people on every side of the argument, especially experts who study the environment.

In addition, if you’re covering a rally or protest that has the potential to be dangerous, or if someone at the public rally doesn’t want journalists there, the Student Press Law Center has this primer about what to do in those cases.

It’s An Honor

WPM Contest deadline approaches

Enter the 2022 Writing, Photo and Multimedia Contest ASAP

Friday, Feb. 4 is the last day to submit entries for one of our 35 Writing, Photo, and Multimedia Contest categories.

Last year saw more than 3,100 entries from the U.S., South Korea, Canada and China, and 320 students were honored. Here is the slideshow of the 2021 winners, including all first-, second- and third-place entries. Here are all the winners, including all the honorable mentions.

This year’s contest will also see a slight rise in the contest entry price. Entries in most writing, photo and design categories will cost $7, while more detailed categories (Multimedia Features Package, In-Depth Team Reporting, Documentary Film, for example) will cost $15 each.

The deadline for entries is Friday, Feb. 4. Be careful, deadlines approach faster than you think. All entries must have been published online or in a publication, either school-based or professional.

Student Journalist Impact Award

March 15 is the deadline for the JEA/Q&S award that honors courageous and impactful journalism

Keep your eye out for a young journalist in your area that has changed the community through their fantastic reporting.

The purpose of the Student Journalist Impact Award is to recognize a secondary school student (or a team of students who worked on the same entry) who, through the study and practice of journalism, has made a significant difference their own lives or others.

This award is co-sponsored by the Journalism Education Association and the Quill and Scroll International Honorary Society for High School Journalists. Quill and Scroll became a co-sponsor in 2018.

The deadline for award nominations in March 15, 2022. To learn more about the award and its past winners click here. 

What’s Viral?

Smash Hit

‘Encanto’ gives Disney biggest hit since 1995

“We Don’t Talk about Bruno” hit No. 4 on the Billboard top 100 this week, surpassing Disney’s previous frontrunner, “Let it Go”, which reached No. 5. Written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (“Hamilton,” “Moana”), the song has gained popularity through many users on social media, especially on apps like Twitter and TikTok.

The film “Encanto” centers on the Madrigal family, in which each member is given a special gift. Some have super-strength or super-hearing, but the character Maribel is the only one in the family who never received a gift. “Encanto” explores themes of grief, identity, and societal pressures and was received by audiences and critics alike. It has had one of the biggest openings for an animated film during the pandemic, reigniting hope for the film industry during these uncertain times.

Here’s what you can do with this:

“Encanto” has been widely praised for its representation of Latino characters and Colombian culture. Understanding why this film is resonating with young children, especially Latino children, is really important. As a student journalist, it’s your job to explore all stories, especially by looking for stories about under-represented groups of people. You have the power to create representation in the media for young children, and provide them with a stronger sense of self.

Here’s a great resource from the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the NAHJ’s “Cultural Competence Handbook.”

Free Tests

U.S. households now eligible for free at home COVID tests

This week, the United States Government opened a website where people can order free at-home COVID tests. Each household is allowed to order four tests, which will be shipped and processed for free. The tests should arrive at homes beginning this week. The Biden administration announced this new initiative with hopes of reducing the spread of Omicron.

Many Americans are rejoicing over the free tests as many cities still face testing shortages. Due to the rise in cases after the spread of the Omicron variant, many are having trouble finding accessible testing in a timely manner. There have also been reports of price gouging with the at-home tests sold in stores.

Here’s what you can do with this:

Access to COVID-19 testing isn’t a new issue, but it’s becoming more pressing as the cases continue to rise. Every single city in America is at a different point right now when it comes to testing availability, so investigating this story on a local level is extremely important. Look into COVID-19 testing in your hometown. Are there at-home tests available in stores, and if so, how much do they cost?

Another part of this story worth investigating is how different members in your community feel about testing for COVID-19. Ask if people get tested any time they feel sick, or if they wait until they are confirmed to have been exposed to a positive case.

Back to the Games

The 2022 Winter Olympics will not have large audiences

The 2022 Beijing Olympics will have increased safety protocols due to COVID-19. Just this week, NBC announced that they will not send any sports broadcasting teams to the Olympics, and will report on most of the events from the United States. The Beijing Winter Olympics Organizing Committee also announced that tickets will not be available to the general public.

There will be some spectators in attendance, but all will have met strict COVID-19 testing and safety protocols. These new policies are the result of the Omicron variant, which had its first case in Beijing on Jan. 19. Athletes who are not vaccinated are also required to quarantine for 21 days before the games, while vaccinated athletes are not. All athletes will undergo daily testing throughout the games.

Here’s what you can do with this:

Since the start of COVID, the way we approach stories has changed a lot. In-person interviews are much less prevalent than they used to be, while remote zoom interviews gain popularity among reporters. Reporting remotely can be difficult and challenging, but there are some things you can do to make them more efficient.

Here’s a session from the Poynter Institute about reporting from home and the tools at your disposal. While it has a suggested donation of $15, a donation is not required to watch.

Just A Thought

Induction Reduction

Q&S initiation requirements may seem vague, but you can create more strenuous requirements for your chapter

By Jeff Browne, Q&S Executive Director

IOWA CITY — Despite nearly constant freezing temperatures here, Quill and Scroll is gearing up to help you induct your deserving student-journalists into our 96-year-old society. If you’re ready to do so, start here.

Our basic requirements for induction haven’t changed in generations:

  • Demonstrate academic achievement defined by being in the upper-third of one’s class or by a 3.0 or better GPA;
  • Be a second-semester sophomore, or a junior or senior; AND
  • Contribute significantly to the student media program in their school or to a professional media organization in lieu of that.

The requirements are purposely vague because Q&S works with many journalism programs that have five students producing only a yearbook or only a news site. Yet some journalism programs engage hundreds of students who produce multi-platform and multimedia journalism daily. And that’s not accounting for chapters such as the one in Pakistan, which supports young journalists from all over the country contributing to professional media in order to earn induction into the society.

However, the last bullet point is where differentiation among schools and advisers comes in. Some teachers nominate only seniors, in part because it’s felt that only seniors will have gotten to the point of making significant contributions.

Others develop point systems that allow even second-semester sophomores to earn the honor. Given Quill and Scroll’s mission — to honor high school student journalists — and its eight guiding principles, it makes sense to look at those as potential criteria for inclusion or exclusion.

How might that work? Let’s look at the eight principles (Truth, Leadership, Learning, Loyalty, Integrity, Initiative, Judgement and Friendship):

  • Truth — Of course that’s the basic promise of every journalist: to tell the truth, whether in stories, graphics, photos or other content. But is there a threshold of truth-telling that one must rise to? This one seems to me to be an area where an inability to tell the truth would exclude a student from consideration for the honor. But how many times? And under what circumstances. This could be bundled with Integrity, if needed.
  • Leadership — This is a little easier. If a student rises to a position managing others or managing important content (investigations, long form, etc.), they could earn points for that.
  • Learning — Did a student take some time to listen to a podcast or attend a virtual lecture that wasn’t a class requirement? Can they document that? Would that be worth points?
  • Integrity — This is part of telling the truth, but can you deny someone the honor because of some other lapse in ethics, be it in journalism class or elsewhere in school? I’d be wary of doing that unless some school-wide policy is very clear about the adviser’s ability to deny a student an honor.
  • Initiative — Pretty simple to me: Has a student come up with great story ideas for themselves and others? Have they taken the initiative in a leadership role to plan work sessions or other morale-building activities that benefit the staff?
  • Judgement — I’d probably bundle this one with Truth and Integrity as a means of rewarding the most ethical students on the staff.
  • Friendship — This is the principle I’ve become most fond of in my five years here at Quill and Scroll. We define it in the Induction Ceremony as Friendship to audiences, but also to the school and greater community. It also can be interpreted as the reason Quill and Scroll allows sophomores to be inducted. Q&S schools have the option — some may feel it’s an obligation — to have a robust chapter that conducts philanthropic or pro-journalism activities. Our Chapter Manual outlines some possibilities. But if a school chooses to induct only seniors, then it’s difficult to monitor a student’s commitment to humanity if it’s not part of chapter activities. Either way, some key questions:
    • Did the student contribute to key Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives on the staff and in school?
    • Did the student contribute to fund-raising for the chapter’s philanthropy?
    • Did the student use their journalistic work to promote a better climate in the school, the town or the state?

That’s a lot to chew on, but I’d love for you to share your checklists or criteria with the Quill and Scroll board and me. Our board is unlikely to change the basic criteria or make them more specific, but when teachers ask for examples of more specific codes, it’d be great to have some on hand to send them.

If you have a code to share, send it to me via email at [email protected].