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Project | 4-6 weeks

From bills to books: new laws aimed at what students learn and how they express themselves


from bills to books

Schools have become flashpoints for America’s political debates– with teachers and students caught in the middle. Lawmakers have proposed more than 200 bills that would restrict or change the way teachers talk about race, American history, gender and sexuality, limit students’ access to books, or increase parents’ rights over their children’s education. According to the Washington Post, 64 of these bills have been signed into law across 25 states.

More than 1,600 books have been banned from schools, according to the free speech advocacy organization PEN America.

SRL wants to hear your experiences and opinions about what you learn and read at school.

Examine a change to education in your own community:

  • New school board policy
  • Book ban
  • New state law

Choose a proposed bill, new law, book ban, or new policy, and explore its repercussions from the perspective of young people.

Research what’s happening in your state or community. PEN America maintains a list of proposed and approved legislation and policies aimed at censoring schools.


Florida HB 1557- Called “Parental Rights in Education.” Its critics refer to it as Florida's “Don’t Say Gay” law. It became law in 2022 and asserts “the fundamental right of parents to make decisions regarding the upbringing and control of their children,” and prohibits, “classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity … in kindergarten through grade 3, or in a manner that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students in accordance with state standards.” The law was expanded in April 2023 to include grades 4-12. It also empowers parents to sue school districts for violations of the law.

Tennessee SB 623- Signed into law in 2021. It prohibits public schools from including or promoting concepts such as:

  • The idea that Tennessee or “the United States is fundamentally or irredeemably racist or sexist”
  • “The rule of law does not exist, but instead is a series of power relationships and struggles among racial or other groups”
  • “Promoting division between, or resentment of, a race, sex, religion, creed, nonviolent political affiliation, social class, or class of people”

Georgia HB 1084- signed into law in 2022 and called the “Protect Students First Act." It prohibits educators from “espousing personal political beliefs” and advocating “divisive concepts” which the law defines as things like, “The United States of America is fundamentally racist” and “An individual, by virtue of his or her race, is inherently or consciously racist or oppressive toward individuals of other races,” or “any other form of race scapegoating or race stereotyping.”

Two deadline options: December 15, 2023 or March 15, 2024


  • Profile (2-4 min. long): A profile is the story of one person. It has voiceover (VO), b-roll, pictures, nats (natural sound), interviews of family members or peers of that one person. Here’s an example of a profile.
  • Explainer (2-4 min. long): A video explaining a concept. Often it includes a host/narrator speaking directly to the camera. The tone could be serious, funny, or informative. Here’s an example of an explainer.
  • News package (3-5 min. long): Video stories about newsworthy issues and topics. A news package has factual information, balanced reporting, research, voice overs, multiple interviews soundbites, b-roll footage. It may also include things like infographics, a reporter standup, nats (natural sound from filming b-roll). Here’s an example of a news package.
  • NAT package (2-4 min. long): A video story guided by the natural sound from interviews and the environment where you’re filming. Natural sound, commonly known as “NAT sound,” puts the viewer in the place the story was told by enhancing the scene(s) with video containing rich audio such as a musician singing at a train station, a storm approaching, or the sound of a tractor plowing the field. This kind of story would often not have a voiceover narration. Here’s an example of a nat package.
  • Audio/podcast story: (3-5 min. long): Create a short audio story for SRL’s On Our Minds Season 4 podcast, about teen life and mental health. Check out SRL’s video about how to record audio, and these resources from NPR training about how to make an audio story.



You must also have this release form completed to confirm your participation in Student Reporting Labs.

NOTE: students are encouraged to publish their stories on their school/club/program website or through video/social platforms such as YouTube, Instagram or Twitter and tag Student Reporting Labs. Check with your teacher to find out instructions for class submissions.





Estimated Time

4-6 weeks