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Campaign spotlights students’ work
that made a difference

Posted by on Jul 30, 2018 in Making a Difference | 0 comments


SPRC members are reintroducing the Making a Difference campaign. This monthly posting will highlight students who have made a difference through their coverage. When your students create content that has a positive impact on your school or community, please fill out the submission form and we’ll tell you how to send your content. JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee will post one or more packages a month on its website and promote them on social media.

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Lori Keekley, in Dow Jones speech,
promotes SPRC services

Posted by on Nov 12, 2016 in Blog, Making a Difference, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


by Lori Keekley
Thanks to all of you who were at Nov. 12’s Dow Jones Newsfund’s Journalism Teacher of the Year speech. Here are the links I promised. If you weren’t there, these are great reminders of several important items available from the SPRC:

• SPRC members are reintroducing the Making a Difference campaign. This monthly posting will highlight students who have made a difference through their coverage. When your students create content that has a positive impact on your school or community, please fill out the submission form and we’ll tell you how to send your content. JEA Scholastic Press Rights Committee will post one or more packages a month on its website and promote them on social media.

• Also, for those of you who are interested in starting a conversation with administrators, we’ve provided some information from both SPRC and JEA: Teacher’s Kit for Curing Hazelwood, JEA Advisers Code of Ethics, Talking Points to use with Administrators. Another great resource (in addition to everything from SPLC) is the Principal’s Guide to Scholastic Journalism.

• And … applications are available for JEA’s First Amendment Press Freedom Award. In its 17th year, the award recognizes high schools that actively support, teach and protect First Amendment rights and responsibilities of students and teachers. The recognition focuses on student-run media where students make all final decisions of content without prior review. The award comes in two steps, with Round 1 due before Dec. 1. The entry form and entry information can be obtained here.

• We’re happy to help via SPRC’s Panic Button if needed. We are here for you!

Thank you, and please let me know how I can further help you.


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Ferguson incident sparks youth summit documentaries

Posted by on Jan 22, 2016 in Blog, Making a Difference, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments


Living in St. Louis, Mo., during the past year has been very difficult, especially if your school is near Ferguson, Mo., the site of much violence and after the shooting death of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teen in that community.

Student journalists at Ritenour High School, have chronicled how the community has risen up to support local youth.

Jane Bannester, media adviser of KRHS Media, shared this, “Living in St. Louis, MO, Ritenour High School’s media program, KRHS Media, spent the last year documenting the effects of Ferguson on youth, and those effecting youth, in our community. Our work was able to highlight the impact on students, and follow the communities’ action to support the youth. By attending youth summits, our students interviewed and documented multiple voices of those who were engaging the issues of race, with hopes of change for our future.”

These two student-created documentaries at KRHS Media record the student leadership experiences which took place in the St. Louis during the past year.

Student Summit on Race 2015 stories can be accessed at these links:

1. “Gateway2Change Movement: Empowering St. Louis to Challenge Racial Divide”

2. “Gateway2Change Movement: Soldan/Parkway Sister Exchange”



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Student promotes need for sex education

Posted by on Dec 12, 2015 in Blog, Making a Difference, News, Scholastic Journalism | 0 comments


Kylee Sharp, a junior at John Muir High School in Pasadena, Calif., was more than disgusted that her school had not sex education program for the students. She decided to use her skills as a student journalist to change that to make sure the students at her high school received the best sex education possible.

Adviser of The Blaze, the high school’s newspaper, Jose Ortega, shared Sharp’s mission.

“Kylee Sharp, an opinion writer, condemned the absence of any sex education at John Muir High School. As a result, the Administration and the Science Department are making concrete plans to deliver sex education to Muir’s students, beginning in the next school year. Her thoroughness in discussing this issue led many to realize that Muir is not even doing the bare minimum to educate its students about a very real part of their lives: sex and its physical and emotional repercussions. But because of Kylee, the Muir community stands to benefit from being educated on this still very taboo subject.”

The following is Sharp’s piece that appeared in the May 28, 2015, edition.

“Recently, the administration acknowledged the lack of HIV/AIDS prevention education in biology classes. A couple of years ago, the freshman class took physics for the science requirement instead of biology. The following year new ­to ­our­ school biology teachers were hired. There was a lot miscommunication between the administration and teachers about what was required to be taught.

At this point in young adolescent lives, most teenagers are very aware of what sex is, but many are not aware of safe sex. But what do these students actually know about sex? Or consent? And where are they getting their information? Not in missing sex ed classes, that’s for certain.

Today, sex is referenced everywhere in the media, from music to movies and books to billboards. Sex, or at least the mention of it, is everywhere, especially at school, and it would be pretty impossible to try to shield young adults from it.

Refusing, by not providing proper sexual education classes, to acknowledge that students know about sex only adds to the issue.

Students have a right to know and be informed on what sex is, what the consequences are, and what they can do to avoid sexual diseases and unwanted pregnancies.

A few weeks ago there was an assembly held right before prom to inform seniors of the difference between consent and rape, and this was the closest we have come to sex ed.

Teen pregnancies have decreased over the past few years, however adolescents are at an increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases (according to the Center for Disease Control Statistics from 2013). So I think it’s pretty important that we have proper sex ed, to increase awareness and inform teens of STDs and unexpected pregnancies.

I know that people will argue that freshmen may be too young to understand sex, but tell that to the high school girls that are pregnant and the boys that impregnated them. Most of us know what sex is and how it works, but we don’t know the repercussions of our actions, especially if we aren’t making safe decisions, or practicing safe sex.

Sexual education, if we were to have it, should be a safe and serious class where teenagers can become better informed. Apparently, schools are not required to teach sex education, according to the California Education Code (CEC) Section 51931 (b), but if they do, they have to follow specific guidelines that conform to the Comprehensive Sexual Health Act.

The guidelines state that if the schools teach sex ed, they must teach that abstinence is the safest way to not have sex and most guaranteed way to not get pregnant, even though they are not limited to just that. Schools are also required to cover teaching about contraceptives, according to the CEC guidelines. What is taught has to be appropriate for the age group.

When I say that we need sex ed, I mean everything from reproduction and anatomy, to healthy relationships, to pregnancy and safe contraceptives. Information on different sexual and gender identities, to inform students who may be struggling. The most important aspect of the class, to me, is to provide students with a safe, confidential space to ask questions and get the accurate information they need to be informed and make informed decisions.

Every sex ed lesson I ever had in middle school taught that abstinence was the only sure way to not get pregnant, and if I did have sex and get pregnant, that’s too bad. But of course the CEC also states that they prohibit abstinence­ only education, so where is the proper education?

Even though schools are not required to teach comprehensive sexual health, they are required to teach HIV/AIDS prevention education at least once in junior high and once again in high school.

To this day, I have had one class on HIV/AIDS prevention. In seventh grade. I have not had anything regarding HIV/AIDS prevention in any class here at Muir.

HIV/AIDS prevention is supposed to be taught in biology after it is already taught in middle school. However, a new curriculum, Next Generation Science Standards, was recently implemented by the school board which does not cover human anatomy or the reproductive

This is really unfair for current students who haven’t received anything on HIV/AIDS.

HIV/AIDS may be covered during the genetic diseases unit if a student researches that topic for their project, but HIV/AIDS preventions and the reproductions system are not specifically covered, just sexual and asexual reproduction at a cellular level according to Biology teacher Alexandra Gonzales.

Gonzales said, “I think it’s important to educate students about ways they can protect themselves from contracting venereal diseases. I think all students would benefit from taking a year of Health.”

At this point it’s pretty evident that I believe we need an actual class for sex ed, and not a unit in biology.

However Principal Timothy Sippel said, “Sex ed should be covered in middle school. [If we were to have it here] I think three to four or five lessons would probably be adequate. Maybe less, maybe more. I don’t think that the entire semester would be required.”

Honestly, I don’t agree. I feel like it would take a few lessons to cover STDs or how to identify unstable relationships. I certainly do not agree that the lessons that are apparently taught in middle school are enough. I don’t think that a few lessons are enough to cover everything that has to do with sex.

The fact that adults are hesitant to say the word “sex” around minors further perpetuates the idea that the very natural act of sex is taboo. This is so harmful to our impressionable minds. Adults doing this creates a stigma around sex and compels us to believe that sex is bad and wrong, and if we are having it then we are bad and wrong. Therefore, we cannot talk about it.

It seems to be a popular consensus that sex education should not be the school’s responsibility, especially not in high school. Even after all the information I gathered for this article, I still stand
with my original statement that sex ed should be taught in high school.

There is the on­going debate everywhere over who is responsible to educate young adults on sex, but in the midst of all this debate, students are not being educated by anyone.

I believe that it should be both the high school and the parent or guardian’s responsibility to inform and educate teenagers on the issues and topic of sex.

School Nurse Mercedese Hervey said, “It probably is important to go over [sex ed] because I’m sure some young people have forgotten it, but the sad thing about it is that we no longer have a health class.”

In the nurse’s office there are a few pamphlets with information about STDs and HIV, but most of them in Spanish. STDs are important to know about considering the highest rates of STDs in the city of Pasadena are in teens 15-19 and young adults.

I have heard adults (not at school) say that providing students with condoms will encourage them to have sex. There are studies that prove this to be false. Also, it doesn’t make sense, I think that providing students with condoms would encourage students to have safe, protected sex, if they were to have it, and it would encourage them to make healthy decisions.

Our school does not provide condoms for students because the school lacks the resources to accommodate the guidelines that follow the distribution of condoms.

However, the decision to distribute condoms ultimately originates from the school board, not necessarily the school.

The school board recently voted to reinstate the health class requirement, which will begin with next year’s freshmen. This class requirement is very likely to include sex education. I think that this is really great and a huge step towards changing the lack of sex ed. Even if it won’t benefit the current students, it’s really significant for these incoming freshmen.

All in all, I think that it is completely necessary to have sex ed at school, since we don’t really have it. I truly believe that us teens require a sex education class, even if it’s just a refresher from middle school. We need it, we want it, so where is it?”

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Don’t drink the water

Posted by on Nov 20, 2015 in Blog, Making a Difference, News, Scholastic Journalism, Teaching | 0 comments

Making a difference…part of a series

sprclogoWhen the water in the fountains and spigots at Rockville High School (Md.) ran rusty, Rampage contributing editor Xavier Rivera knew something had to be done. The three-part investigative report Rivera wrote caught the attention of a state senator and brought the issue to the forefront motivating administration to seek a remedy to reduce the levels of lead in the water to acceptable EPA levels.

Rampage adviser, Jessica Nassau explained that the “story began during a Rampage staff brainstorming session, when students mentioned that the water coming from the fountains tasted “funny.” Editor Xavier Rivera decided that it was a story worth exploring, kicking off a three-story investigative series. He sent water samples to a lab and the results showed lead levels that surpassed the EPA limits.

He interviewed professionals and district officials to get the full story, and the online edition came to the attention of Senator Karen Montgomery, who wrote a letter to the school board. It was clear that this was a safety issue that could not be ignored.

Due to the story, the school began the EPA recommended water-flushing protocol, which brought the lead presence down to what is considered a safe level. The articles really got the attention of students and staff at our school, and we definitely heard from many of them that they wouldn’t drink the water until the problem was fixed.

That the district ultimately had to take action based on a student publication was tremendously empowering for the whole staff of the Rampage, who came to see that journalists really do make a difference. Though the article was primarily Xavier’s, I would like to mention that he had tremendously supportive editors-in-chief who helped him. This was a story that was bigger than one person, and it was wonderful to see the staff come together to make it the best it could be.”

Read the stories at the links provided.

H20 or H2No?

Administration Responds to Water Quality

Flushing Protocol Meklit Bekele– The Rampage Fixes Water Quality

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Student journalists report on Genius Girl story that goes viral

Posted by on Oct 10, 2015 in Blog, Making a Difference, Scholastic Journalism | 0 comments


sprclogoThe student journalists at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology knew the story that was going viral in the public media about a student from their school needed to be told from the inside by the people who knew the real story.

The story of the ‘Genius Girl’ from TJHSST moved through public media including the Washington Post, not far from their school. According to the Washington Post, the story was actually a hoax, perpetrated by the student. The student promoted that she had been accepted into all eight Ivy League schools, but in the end, the real story showed that the student had fabricated much of the hype herself. Her peers took on the challenge and reported the story. They interviewed the principal and also others about societal pressure to make the grade.

According to their adviser, Erinn Harris, ” My students didn’t even know where to start in telling this story. A senior forged college acceptances, creating an uproar that was covered in the local, national and international press; we didn’t know what to do, but we knew we needed to do something. In their continuing coverage that began in June, students don’t plan to focus on the “Genius Girl,” but rather the social, cultural and academic stress that drove her to deceive her entire community. The goal is to keep students from feeling the kind of pressure that would lead them to making such drastic and life-altering decisions.”

Their initial story appears here: “Genius Girl” should spark conversation about academic pressure

Check out their website for more coverage in the coming year.

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