Jan. 22, 2024 – Media Literacy Now’s first Claire D. Beach Award goes to Utah State Rep. Keven Stratton of Orem for elevating media literacy education as a priority in his state’s K-12 schools.
“Since his first bill was passed in 2015, Rep. Stratton has continued to show indefatigable commitment to the well-being of children in a digital age,” said Erin McNeill, CEO and founder of nonpartisan advocacy organization Media Literacy Now. “And ripple effects of Rep. Stratton’s work continue to spread across the country.”
Jan Garbett, founder of Epik, presents the inaugural Beach Award to Rep. Stratton of Utah
Representative Stratton sponsored HB 213, The Safe Technology Utilization And Digital Citizenship In Public Schools Act. Digital citizenship refers to the use of media literacy to participate in the public sphere using communications technology. Digital citizenship is an outcome that requires media literacy skills.
“Understanding and incorporating the fundamental principles of digital citizenship is critical for us all to navigate today’s environment,” said Rep. Stratton. “The rising generation is our greatest treasure and hope for the future. As we teach and incorporate digital citizenship we protect our children from new and emerging hazards by giving them the tools they need to navigate the complex landscape they now face.”
“This bill opened doors for Utah to host the 3rd annual Digital Citizenship Summit, which included a collaborative white paper seeking to bridge the worlds of digital citizenship, media literacy, and prevention science,” said Jan Garbett, founder of Epik, a Utah group that fosters collaborative conversations to help create a positive digital culture. “Relationships forged even prior to this summit continue to bear fruit in efforts to expand awareness and learning about media literacy.”
Rep. Stratton’s HB 213 created a mandate for digital citizenship education, tapped into already-existing funding, and mobilized already-existing leadership at the school level through School Community Councils. This model for developing solutions at the local level set the stage for a legislative approach that was implemented in Washington state in 2016, and later in other states.
Rep. Stratton also gathered multi-sector stakeholders for a brainstorming meeting in 2019 about expanding work on behalf of the wellbeing of children and youth in the 21st century which led to his legislation creating the Digital Wellness, Citizenship, and Safe Technology Commission in 2020.
“Collaborative relationships developed through this period are enabling digital wellness learning experiences, which include education about media literacy, to expand at the grassroots level – from the Utah State PTA to other parent-focused groups, and also reaching national and international influencers in digital citizenship and digital safety realms,” said Ms. Garbett. “Fruits of these collaborative relationships are also impacting the realm of civics learning in Utah, where media literacy is receiving dedicated focus in a state-wide, multi-sector collective expanding conversations and funding opportunities for civics learning experiences for students.”
The award honors Claire Douglas Beach (1951-2022), who changed the world through her teaching and passionate advocacy for media literacy education. Claire was a member of the Media Literacy Now Board of Directors. She was the president and longtime member of the Action for Media Education advocacy group in Seattle when in 2016 she led the effort to pass legislation in Washington State that became the model for a bill that has been passed by five states, debated in numerous other statehouses across the country, and inspired other advances in state-level media literacy policy.