Originally Published by Anne Delaney of The Greeley Tribune
Signed in June by Gov. Jared Polis, a new law aims to fight disinformation by requiring the state department of education to maintain an online bank of materials about media literacy, should schools want to use it.
(TNS) — In an age dominated by social media and massive amounts of information and disinformation, the state of Colorado will soon help schools teach preschool through secondary students how to tell fact from fiction. The Colorado General Assembly passed a bill in the spring requiring the state department of education to create and maintain an online resource bank of materials relating to media literacy according to the legislation, also known as House Bill 1103. Gov. Jared Polis signed the bill into law in June.
State representative Lisa Cutter, one of the bill's prime sponsors, said she was interested in the legislation because of the countless number of outlets providing news and information today — compared with the options when she was a student. "We had a few sources of news and watched the news and made decisions from dispassionate information," Cutter said. "Kids now have a bazillion sources of information that may or may not be credible." At the request of a school or a school district, the Colorado Department of Education will provide available resources and assistance in "implementing policies and procedures, best practices, and recommendations related to media literacy," according to the bill. There is no requirement for schools or school districts to adopt or implement the materials or information into current curriculum. Cutter, a Democrat who represents Jefferson County, was in joined in sponsorship of the bill by: House colleague Barbara McLachlan, a Democrat representing Archuleta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, La Plata, Ouray and San Juan counties; and from the senate, the prime sponsors were Democrat Brittany Petersen from Jefferson County and District 6 Republican Don Corum, who represents Archuleta, Dolores, La Plata, Montezuma, Montrose, Ouray, San Juan and San Miguel counties. McLachlan said she joined on as a prime sponsor of the bill because she "liked what Cutter was saying," and especially in the current climate of communication and information throughout the world. "It's all day and every day and all news channels from the right and left side," McLachlan said. "When we watch, we need to discern and look at the bias and intended bias." In 2019, Cutter, who has a public relations and communications background, and Petersen were prime sponsors on a bill that created the resource bank upon which schools and districts could draw to teach the courses. The 2019 bill, HB-1110, also created an advisory committee to develop the bank of resources with $19,816 appropriated in fiscal year 2019-20. There is no a funding appropriation attached to the 2021 bill. Information on the bill says beginning in fiscal year 2021-22, the CDE workload will increase to compile and maintain a media literacy resource bank, and to provide support to schools, districts and charter schools. Media literacy content standards will be adopted as part of the next regular update of reading, writing and civics standards by the state board of education. The review and revision process for social studies and four other standards is underway and will extend through June 2022, according to the state department of education website. McLachlan said the bill was crafted because the legislators didn't want to introduce material to students for one class during the senior year of high school, when the impact might not be as strong. Instead, the material will be available and grade appropriate, so teachers and administrators don't have to "to reinvent the wheel," as McLachlan said, to teach an important subject. "I don't think we should shut down any information," Cutter said. "But too many people are masquerading as real news and credible information and they're not."