April 25. 2022

The Lede

Sunshine State Sanctions

Math textbooks containing social-emotional coping devices banned in Florida

Florida’s legislature followed through last week with Gov. Ron DeSantis’ pledge to remove certain math textbooks from the state’s approved curriculum because the books include lessons about social-emotional learning (SEL).

Educational researchers define SEL as: “the process of developing the self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital for school, work, and life success.” For math-phobic students, SEL purportedly helps them overcome those fears.

But Florida lawmakers say that math isn’t about feelings or coping mechanisms — it’s about solving problem with concrete answers.

Florida Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nuñez said the books contained veiled attempts at teaching Critical Race Theory.

“What we’ve seen is a systematic attempt by these publishers to infiltrate our children’s education by embedding topics such as CRT,” Nuñez said.

Later in the week, Walton County in Florida’s panhandle, banned a book called “Babies Everywhere,” a book that celebrates infants and the various families they come from. Though the text doesn’t mention gay couples, the photos suggest that babies exist in families of all types.

Here’s what you can do:

If you haven’t already written about and reported on controversies around texts in your school — public or private, in the U.S. or elsewhere — then it might be time to start. If you’re in a state or country that has a Republican-dominated government, those politicians are probably feeling some pressure to limit the amount of exposure young students have to texts and other lessons that acknowledge the existence of gay couples and genderqueer people. What’s the status of that pressure?

If you live in an area with Democrats primarily in charge of government policy, then you’re still probably seeing some pressure to limit curriculum to what opponents call “age-appropriate” instruction. Can someone define what’s appropriate at any age, especially as it pertains to the diversity of the human experience?

The Brooklyn Public Library in blue New York City is opening its virtual shelves to every teenager in the U.S.

Quill and Scroll’s eighth guiding principle is friendship, and that’s defined as befriending audiences and acknowledging the humanity of every single person in those audiences. To that end, make sure that your reporting on this topic is comprehensive and not driven by a political agenda, be it conservative, liberal or moderate.

Mask Not

What your country can do for you is up in the air

Last week’s ruling by a federal judge and the Biden administration’s subsequent relaxing of mask mandates on airplanes have left Americans feeling both relief and dread.

The relief comes from those who have grown weary of sporting a mask in airport terminals and on planes despite rarely wearing them in other public spaces.

The dread is coming from those who are at high-risk of developing a serious case of COVID or long-haul COVID.

Here’s what you can do:

Do you have an autoimmune disease or are you otherwise at risk of suffering from potential long-term COVID or even death? Do you have a flight scheduled for somewhere later this spring or this summer? What are the airlines policies regarding refunds if you aren’t safe flying with unmasked people?

Like any story you localized from national news, this is about how your audience feels about a decision, and it’s also about the people who are affected by the decision. How will people feel about air travel with so many maskless fellow passengers? Will families change plans so they can drive to vacation destinations? This woman did, and she got her refund from United Airlines.

Of course, tension on planes isn’t limited to masks and health concerns. Just ask Mike Tyson. Yikes.

An ‘amazing’ partnership

Staten Island newspaper teams with Curtis High School to mentor student journalists

It’s not unique, but the partnership happening in New York City at Staten Island’s Curtis High School, is a great reminder of two things — how local journalists can serve as mentors to their high school counterparts AND how high school journalists can contribute to community news coverage.

Teacher Candace Turner set up the program in which reporters and editors at the Staten Island Advance will work with students at Curtis to help them create content that will enrich the lives of everyone in their community.

“To have professional journalists working directly with my students is amazing,” Turner told the Advance. “When students work side-by-side with journalists, I think they will learn so much more than just working in a classroom. I also think it is a two-way street; I think the e-mentors will also learn from the next generation too!”

Curtis has been a Quill and Scroll charter school since 2004.

Here’s what you can do:

Local newsrooms continue to be short-handed, generally, but the journalists in them tend to have a great deal of enthusiasm for helping the next generation.

Don’t wait for your adviser to make that contact to create a partnership that can be beneficial to both parties. After all, it’s harder to say “no” to a group of excited teenagers than it is to a middle-aged teacher, right?

It’s An Honor

Nichols wins adviser award

Sarah Nichols from Whitney HS in California earns $500 Lester Benz Scholarship

Former National Yearbook Advisor of the Year Sarah Nichols has earned the 2022 Lester Benz Scholarship from Quill and Scroll.

Nichols will use the $500 stipend to pay for online learning opportunities, specifically courses in Adobe Illustrator, which she’ll then use in her lessons both at Whitney High School in Rocklin, California, but also in her role as an instructor in Kent State University’s master’s program for journalism educators.

In fact, it was the impact of Nichols’ work that most compelled the three-member Quill and Scroll Scholarship Committee to honor her.

“It was the specificity of her request and the impact that she’ll have on others,” one committee member said.

Nichols’ application was supported by stellar letters of recommendation as well.

“The honors her high school students have earned, both for overall publications and individually, speak for that,” wrote Candace Perkins Bowen, the director of the Center for Scholastic Journalism at Kent State. “The Crowns and Pacemakers and Best in Shows illustrate Sarah’s remarkable advising. Every publication has an off year, but that doesn’t seem to be the case with the media her students produce.

“Bottom line, awarding the scholarship to Sarah will have a trickledown effect with students at the secondary school and college levels, in California and across the U.S. all benefitting from her new expertise. In fact, I may have to sit in on some of these classes as my Adobe Illustrator knowledge is definitely lacking, too.”

Valerie Penton Kibler, the adviser at Harrisonburg High School in Harrisonburg, Virginia was also effusive in her praise.

“In my eyes, Sarah Nichols is a journalism education superhero,” Kibler wrote. “In fact, I’m fairly convinced she gets more done in 24 hours than most of us accomplish in two days. I’ve never known another soul who gives so much of herself to others, especially in the field of journalism education.

Scholarships for Students

The deadline for Quill and Scroll scholarships is May 15

Student scholarship applications are now open, and they’re for students who are Quill and Scroll members or for students who have won awards in any number of Quill and Scroll contests. Apply for the grants — which can pay up to $1,500 for your first year in college — before May 15.

YEC open for entries

Looking for something to do after the yearbook deadline and before distribution? Enter the YEC!

The 2022 Yearbook Excellence Contest is open for entries. The cost for each entry in all 30 categories is $7, and schools will be divided by size — Class A for 1,000 or more students, and Class B for 999 or fewer students,

Entry deadline is Oct. 10, and here is a link to complete descriptions of those 30 categories.

Judges will award first, second and third places in each category for each class, and they’ll award honorable mentions so that between 10 and 15 percent of all entries are recognized in every category. All students named as award recipients will be eligible to apply for Quill and Scroll student scholarships in May of their senior year.

Quill and Scroll administrators will then tally points (5 for first place, 4 for second, 3 for third and 1 for HM) to determine a Blue and Gold Award winner for each class. Last year’s winners were Shawnee Mission North High School in Overland Park, Kansas (Class A) and Christ Presbyterian Academy of Nashville, Tennessee (Class B).

Here’s a complete list of last year’s winners, and here’s a slideshow that you can use to prepare for what judges may be looking for.

A new partnership!

MediaNow and Quill and Scroll work together to help student journalists and advisers

Quill and Scroll is proud to partner with Media Now to help students and advisers with the skills they need to succeed in the 21st Century newsroom through summer camp and year-round online resources.

We are excited for Media Now for many reasons. Like us, they have high standards and are well respected in the journalism community. They have similar guiding principles to our own Eight Guiding Principles. And we both want to recognize and further the cause of scholastic journalism. In addition, if you’ve ever been part of a Media Now event, you know they deliver not only on quality of instruction, but in bringing the energy and making their events fun.

While we will have more to talk about next week in our official release, we wanted Scroll readers to be the first to know about this new partnership. For now, feel free to check out what they have available for on-demand training right now and what they’ve got for in-person training this summer.

A great induction

Nebraska partner comes up with a fire-proof induction in a wonderful first-time ceremony

Class Intercom, a Quill and Scroll chapter that works with students to create effective and truthful social media at their schools, inducted six students last night in a ceremony that replaced our candles with sand.

Photo by Jeff Browne

Here’s Class Intercom founder Ben Pankonin pouring sand into commemorative glass vessels as President Dr. Jill Johnson reads the script, which replaced “light” with sand. Each color of sand in the vessel represented one of our eight guiding principles.

Six students were inducted in the ceremony at the Barnyard in Lincoln, Nebraska’s downtown Haymarket District. The four students from Nebraska attended in person with their families, while the students from Michigan and Iowa were inducted virtually.

Gemalyn Griffin, a professor of practice in the College of Journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, spoke about the timelessness of truth in an ever-changing media environment.

The sand-instead-of-flame innovation is just another way in which Quill and Scroll chapters re-invent the induction ceremony to their own needs and policies — as long as the script doesn’t change the meaning of the eight principles and their value in all our lives.

We look forward to seeing how your chapter interprets the induction ceremony. Send descriptions and photos/video/audio to [email protected].

Critique forms available

News Media Evaluation is the best way to get objective feedback about your news operation The Quill and Scroll News Media Evaluation provides news media staffs a one-of-a-kind assessment of your publication(s) with constructive comments and suggestions for improvement from qualified evaluators. Judges will provide a thorough analysis and rating to schools, and the evaluation exercise and feedback are instructive and developmental. High schools and junior high/middle schools may enter their multimedia news operations, newspapers, news magazines and/or online news sites until June 15, 2022. Entries and ratings are returned in early September 2022. This service is open to non-member schools as well as member schools. Here’s the web page with all the information about entering your publication.

What’s Viral?

‘Betsy & Irv’

ESPN short documentary tells a positive story in the wake of horror

ESPN’s acclaimed documentary arm, ESPN Films, has produced another short film worthy of your attention. “Betsy & Irv,” which debuted last week, recounts an unlikely friendship that developed in the late 1970s at Penn State University after a young woman was raped by a PSU football player.

Betsy Sailor was just one of the victims of Penn State linebacker Todd Hodne, a serial rapist who terrorized the Penn State campus during this time there playing for head coach Joe Paterno, and convicted sexual predator and pedophile Jerry Sandusky, the defensive coordinator for the Lions.

Sailor’s story is just one of two films released by ESPN this week. The second is the story of Paterno’s legacy 10+ years after his forced retirement and death. The other is an E60 production titled “The Paterno Legacy.”

Both films are available on ESPN+.

Here’s what you can do:

The 16-minute film “Betsy & Irv” highlights the kindness that is too often ignored by journalists who often don’t have the time to add positive notes and outcomes to stories about tragedy and horror.

You may not have the equipment or the skills to produce a full documentary, but every journalist can think about the heroes that inevitably emerge in times of trouble and strife. Tell their stories, and if you are able to tell the personal stories of the people they helped, that’s just as important to your reporting.


Can you separate your school and social lives? Is it healthy to do so?

Do you have an “innie” and an “outie” inside your brain? Using the terms coined by the Apple+ TV show “Severance,” are you able to separate your school/work life from your social and personal life? And is that something we really should try to do?

Those questions are being asked by Americans this spring as millions of us have finished watching — or are in the middle of streaming — the hit show starring Adam Scott, Britt Lower, Patricia Arquette, John Turturro, Tramell Tillman, Christopher Walken and Zach Cherry. All of them work for a questionable corporation called “Lumon” that has on its “severed floors” people who have undergone a procedure called “severance” in which a chip is implanted in their brains that completely separates their work lives from their personal lives: neither persona has any memory or experience of what the other persona experiences. Scott’s character, for example, in his work life wants to forget the death of his wife.

Of course, tension arises as the two personas of a former Lumon employee makes contact with Scott’s character, leading to some illumination among both the “innies” and “outies” about their situations.

It’s a fascinating tale of how we live our lives and the impact of our work on our personal relationships and senses of self-worth.

Here’s what you can do:

This is a good chance to write a little bit about how students at your school — as well as staff, teachers and administrators — cope with the stressors that they face in both their school and personal lives. What are some of the best practices that counselors and nurses suggest? What are some of the things people do that aren’t healthy coping mechanisms and how can people avoid those traps? Is it healthy to compartmentalize your life?

Here’s a chance to reach out to health experts and make a difference in the lives of your audiences.

It’s also a fascinating show to review for your arts sections, of course. (Tip: the seemingly endless hallway scenes are an important motif.)

Just A Thought


First-time voters should demand their politicians tell the truth and to be consistent in its application

If you’re a Quill and Scroll member, you have made a lifelong commitment to be a truth teller, to place the search for and the honest application of the truth as the principal driving force in your life.

On Thursday, the New York Times broke a story proving that U.S. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-California) lied about his interactions with former President Donald Trump regarding the Jan. 6, 2021 attempt to overthrow the peaceful transition of power that is the hallmark of America’s democratic republic. An audio tape of McCarthy speaking with fellow U.S. Rep. Lynne Cheney (R-Wyoming) clearly shows that McCarthy said he thought Trump’s egging on of the insurrectionists that day should result in his removal from office and that McCarthy would ask Trump to resign.

That call, a few days after the insurrection and violence at the U.S. Capitol, included McCarthy calling Trump’s actions “atrocious and totally wrong,” and that the former president’s speech on Jan. 6 was “not right by any shape or any form.”

Yet shortly thereafter, McCarthy changed his tune, denying that he thought the president should resign. Even as the Times was reporting its story, McCarthy denied what was on the audio recording, in effect denying that he said what he said.

That’s called gaslighting — here’s a story about the origins of the term.

On the other side of the spectrum, Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, has remained true to her ideals and has repeatedly bucked her party’s leadership to tell the truth, as best she can, and to seek the truth as part of the House’s committee investigating the insurrection. Lynne Cheney has been a profile in courage, a person to respect for her actions and fealty to truth.

Reporters revealed more McCarthy gaslighting Friday.

Friday’s blockbusters were twofold — first, a tape of McCarthy acknowledging that Trump took some responsibility for the Jan. 6 coup attempt; and second, a hearing involving Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and her fitness for holding office in the U.S. House.

You’re a student journalist today, and your role is to make sure that the stories you tell, that the reports you provide and the graphics you create are the best version of the truth that you can report on. If you find that you’ve made a mistake or somehow not represented the entirety of a situation, you correct that error and you provide more information to help create a more truthful picture.

And when politicians lie, you’re there to serve your readers, viewers and listeners, not a political ideology.

When you graduate high school, you may not choose to pursue a study or a career in journalism, but you’re going to be a voter if you’re a citizen and registered voter in your country. Please make sure that you’re holding all politicians accountable for lying, and not just the politicians of the “other” party.

We have an epidemic of lying going on in this country, and the last few days have underscored that. It’s up to all of us to make it stop.