By Michelle Linford
It has been less than a year since HB213 (“Safe Technology and Digital Citizenship in Public Schools”) passed in the Utah legislature, and already the bill has had a
significant impact in the state. It’s also gaining attention in other states, such as Washington, where a similar bill was recently passed.
Representative Keven Stratton, HB213’s sponsor, values bringing people from various sectors together to address important issues. He took a collaborative approach to drafting the legislation, reaching out for input from parents, nonprofit leaders, and people in the state education system. As a result, a bill that was narrowly focused on internet filtering in schools expanded into one that addressed a broader conversation about digital citizenship. The legislation has now become an important vehicle to begin a statewide conversation in the schools and school communities about what Rep. Stratton calls an “all hands on deck” issue.
The bill enables school community councils (which consist of parents, teachers, and a school’s principal, and sometimes youth) to add internet safety and digital citizenship education when proposing budgets for the use of school land trust funds.
A key to the bill’s success in bringing change to education was that implementation support was built right into the language of the bill: HB213 enables councils to utilize the services of nonprofit organizations for help and support in their efforts to bring digital citizenship training and resources to their schools. This visionary, collaborative approach of Stratton’s has born tangible fruit. Paula Plant, program administrator for the School Land Trust program, is responsible for training school community councils on new legislation each year. She notes, “I’ve never had so many people interested in helping support the implementation of a bill!”
For example, last spring, community leaders from various sectors (education, non-profit, etc.) rallied around Plant to brainstorm how to help school community councils with digital citizenship education. EPIK Deliberate Digital, a non-profit focused on facilitating multidisciplinary collaboration around the issue of kids and technology, stepped in to help expand the discussion and action to support HB213’s goals. EPIK hosted cross-sector community conversations, including meetings with youth, to launch community conversations about digital citizenship. EPIK also researched over 200 digital citizenship resources to provide a Resource Library for councils, parents, and others interested in the topic.
EPIK is also facilitating community efforts toward youth-driven Positive Pilot projects, and is working directly with Salt Lake City and Google Fiber to help embed efforts around Digital Inclusion, Digital Literacy, and Digital Citizenship.
As other states plan digital citizenship or media literacy initiatives, they might consider how to bring a collaborative energy into both the policy creation and implementation processes.