Civics360: A New Resource for Civic Education



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Good morning, friends in Civics. Over the past few years, teachers here in Florida and elsewhere in the United States have made heavy use of the Escambia Civics Review Site. We do believe that the partnership with Escambia County and the willingness of that district to host and share resources for teaching and learning has been beneficial for everyone. Over time, however, requests have been made and ideas contemplated about improvements that could be made to make that site even better. These requests and ideas include more student friendly videos, more helpful assessment tools, and resources for ESOL students and struggling readers. With that in mind, the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship, in partnership with Escambia County Schools,  is excited to announce the launching of a new Civics review site that will, later this summer, replace the currect Escambia Civics Review Site: Civics360. Civics360 is free to all registered users, much like our current Florida Citizen website. This site is now live and available for your use.

civics360 cover

So what are the new features you will find in Civics360? Take a look at the orientation video below, which walks you through the registration process, and read the rest of the post to learn about what we hope will be a useful resource for you and your students.

Continue reading

The Equal Rights Amendment: Is It Really Real?


Some civically interesting and exciting news out of Virginia yesterday. Virginia’s legislature voted to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, becoming the 38th state to do so and thus giving the amendment the number of states it needs to be added to the Constitution!

So what does this amendment say? Well, let’s take a look:

The Equal Rights Amendment

Section 1. Equality of Rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.

Essentially, this amendment would ban through constitutional prerogative, discrimination against anyone based on sex. While this is certainly covered through various civil rights acts, supporters argue that this would enshrine in the Constitution the importance of equality between the sexes , as a law is a great deal easier to repeal than an amendment to the Constitution.

Arguments against the Equal Rights Amendment


As with everything, there has historically been significant opposition to the Equal Rights Amendment. Activist Phyllis Schlafly led much of the opposition to the amendment, and the argument is simple: sex-neutral treatment in law could potentially harm women. Schlafly argued that:

“What that amendment would do is to make all laws sex-neutral. Well, the typical, classic law that is not sex-neutral is the draft registration law. And we were still in the Vietnam War in 1972.

“I had sons and daughters about age 18. My daughters thought this was the craziest thing they ever heard. You’re going to have a new amendment for women? And the first thing is they’ll have to sign up for the draft like their brothers. Now, that was an unsalable proposition.”

Thanks to the efforts of activists and opponents like Schlafly, the amendment fell short of approval, gaining only 35 of the 38 it needed to by 1982, that year already a Congressionally approved extension of the limited time for ratification the amendment had already exceeded.

So What’s Next? 

What’s next? Good question. It’s unclear at this point whether or not Virginia ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment actually means it is ratified and in our Constitution, simply because of that expiration date. We can likely expect court challenges from both sides on this issue, without a doubt.An interesting paper from the Congressional Research Service is worth a read!  It explores questions around ratification in great detail.

This topic is certainly something that would be good fodder for discussion in the classroom, tying into civics, government, history, and current events!

Useful and Cool Resources for Exploring the ERA

DocsTeach: The Equal Rights Amendment

Arguments for and Against the ERA  

FJCC Lesson Plan on Amending the Constitution (compares 19th Amendment to ERA)

The National Women’s History Museum Lesson Plan on ERA

Video Overview

‘Democracy is not a spectator sport’: The Civics Literacy Practicum proposed for Florida

ben diamond

FL Rep. Ben Diamond

As the title of this post says, democracy is not a spectator sport. In order to serve as active and knowledgeable members of the civic community of this great state and the broader representative democratic republic in which we live, it is necessary for those who are learning what it means to be a part of it all to actually have the chance to practice in their roles as ‘citizen apprentices.’

Recently, a bill was introduced in both chambers of the Florida Legislature, spearheaded by Rep. Ben Diamond, to create a sort of ‘civics literacy practicum’ that takes civics learning in this state to the next level.It is an exciting opportunity! So what exactly makes up this ‘civics literacy practicum’? Let’s take a look at key components of the bill, beginning with an overview of the House version:

Bill Summary

The Requirements of the Civic Literacy Practicum

In order to successfully complete a civic literacy practicum, students will have to:

  • identify a civic issue that impacts the community
  • research the issue from multiple perspectives
  • develop a plan for being involved with the issue
  • Create a portfolio to evaluate and reflect upon the experience and the outcomes or likely outcomes
    • include research, evidence, and a written plan of involvement

The practicum itself must be non-partisan, focus on addressing at least one community issue, involve multiple perspectives, and give the student an opportunity to engage in civil discourse with someone who holds a differing perspective on the issue.

Community Service Hours

The hours outside of classroom instruction that a student devotes to the nonpartisan civic literacy practicum to implement his or her plan of involvement may be counted toward meeting community service requirements for participation in the Florida Bright Futures Scholarship Program. School districts should include and accept nonpartisan civic literacy practicum activities and hours in requirements for academic awards,
especially those awards that currently include community service as a criterion or selection factor.

Freedom Schools

This is an interesting incentive for schools to encourage students to take part in this practicum: schools can be officially designated by the state as ‘Freedom Schools’. In order to be a Freedom School, schools must:

  • demonstrate that they have integrated proven practices of civic learning and engagement into the classroom
  • extend those same practices across the broader curriculum
  • engage in high quality professional learning community work around student achievement and best practice
  • a certain percentage of students graduating with a regular diploma, service learning hours, AND success in the civics literacy practicum.

Looking over the Senate version of the bill, the core of it is very simple, and I suspect that these will merge well in committee.

As a reminder, Rep. Diamond put forward a similiar bill last year. That one died in committee, in part because it put more expectations and mandates on schools and districts as far as course development and implementation, as well as some of issues with language choice. This bill, however, may see more success than we might think of otherwise. We here at LFI/FJCC certainly hope so!



An Update on FJCC’s The Civics Classroom Online Course Series

Friends, as you may be aware, we have been offering a free online course series, The Civics Classroom, open to all teachers but primarily targeting new and early career civics teachers in Florida.


“I just wanted to thank you for offering the online Civics Modules, I learned so much during the first one and can’t wait to implement some of the things I learned.” —A beginning civics teacher “Thank-you also for the course- I learned quite a bit about how to teach Civics in Florida and to especially to 7th graders.” —An experienced teacher new to civics in Florida

After much reflection, review of data, and discussion with teachers, we are going to be relaunching the course series later this spring with a new approach. The original iteration of the course featured a heavily interactive component where participants would engage with each other to discuss particular aspects of civics teaching and learning. The goal was to build a PLC of civics teachers that could work together and get to know each other, serving as a resource for each other no matter what district they were in.

Unfortunately, this did mean that we required folks to work on a specific timeline in each course; it was hard to feel successful in the course when you had to wait an extended period of time for someone to respond to your posts!


We believe that this course can improve instruction in civics. We think it can make a difference in the experiences and practices of civics teachers, and help hold the hand of new and beginning civics teachers as they find their way. So we want folks to find it beneficial, and to complete it. We want folks to feel success. As such, we are revising the course series in its entirety. What does this mean? Well, the videos and extra resources will remain, as will the expectations of a pre-test and post-test and submission of student data in order to get recertification points. The most significant change will be the replacement of the discussion boards and any timeline/deadline expectations.

The discussion boards are being replaced with a quiz at the end of each module, to ensure that you did learn about the focus of the module and are coming away with a greater sense of what is necessary to succeed.

You will be able to work at your own pace and not rely on others for successful completion of the course. 

We expect to relaunch the course series later this spring, and we believe that the revisions we are making based on your feedback and the data we have reviewed will make the course series far more accessible and beneficial to civics teachers across the state and beyond.

Watch this space for more information about the relaunched course series! Questions can be directed to Dr. Steve Masyada.

Florida Council for the Social Studies Sponsored Resolutions Passed at National Conference

Are you a social studies teacher in Florida? If so, please consider joining us in your state council, and connect with a thousand other social studies across the state. Your state council does a great many things, but it also works to stay connected to the national social studies conversation, and it is active in the National Council for the Social Studies’ House of Delegates. (And you should join NCSS too!).

HoD Members

FCSS House of Delegates Members Steve Masyada, Cherie Arnette, and Jennifer Jolley

During the House of Delegates session, resolutions drafted and sponsored by the Florida Council passed on a straight voice vote. These two resolutions address issues of concern in our field and, we hope, may make some level of difference in the state and national conversation.

Resolution 02-01
Supporting Social and Emotional Learning in School

This resolution addresses the recent research in both civics education and in the broader field on ensuring that students have access to the curriculum, tools, and resources they need to address their social and emotional learning.


Association of Teachers of Social Studies/United Federation of Teachers- New York City 

College and University Faculty Assembly

Early Childhood and Elementary Education Community

Georgia Council for the Social Studies

Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies 

Nebraska State Council for Social Studies

Oregon Council for the Social Studies


Research, surveys, and recent developments in Florida and other states suggest that increasingly, students need stronger supports in school in the area of social and emotional learning (SEL). The pressures students face within schools and the broader community are significant, and we must  ensure that they are provided the opportunity to become knowledgeable, responsible, caring members of their communities. Understanding risks, thinking critically, developing empathy, and knowing how to engage in self-care can help students deal with the obstacles to success they face on a day to day basis (1);    

WHEREAS; “Social and emotional learning is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions,” (2); and 

WHEREAS; Florida has recently joined other states in requiring schools to spend time addressing student mental health; and 

WHEREAS; that required time is often less than a full day of school over the course of the year; and 

WHEREAS; research by Levine and Kawashima-Ginsberg (2017) suggests that social and emotional learning should be a significant component of a strong civics program that produces ‘more ethical and effective citizens’; and

WHEREAS; research within the field of social and emotional learning suggests that supporting students in their social and emotional learning by giving them the tools to address their own mental and emotional health, fostering a school culture and climate that allows students to develop empathetic relationships that help them feel both safe and loved, and  providing them the opportunity to practice necessary decision-making skills all comprise elements of a strong SEL program; and 

WHEREAS; integration of an effective SEL program requires integration into the broader school curriculum and culture rather than a stand alone approach that provides less than a full school day of learning; and 

WHEREAS; the National Council for the Social Studies has itself suggested the importance of social and emotional learning, especially for elementary students within the social studies; now

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED; that NCSS should advocate for every state to enact and enforce expectations for an integrated approach to social and emotional learning that draws on the most current research in SEL across all grade levels, so that students are given the opportunity to grow as both participants in civic life and as human beings. We also call for NCSS to develop a guide for teachers seeking to integrate elements of SEL into their own social studies curriculum, addressing the question of how we might align social and emotional learning with our content and our pedagogy.  


  1. Elias, M. J., Zins, J.E., Weissberg, R.P., Frey, K.S., Greenberg, M.T., Haynes, N.M., Kessler, R., Schwab-Stone, M.E., & Shriver, T.P. (1997). Promoting Social and Emotional Learning: Guidelines for Educators. Alexandria, VA: ASCD.
  2. From Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) (2019). Overview of SEL. Retrieved 14 Aug 19 from"

Resolution 04-04
Protecting Student Journalism Against Censorship and Retaliation 

This resolution is of a piece with similiar resolutions passed by other educational organizations across the country. It reflects the importance of democratic practices and opportunities for engaged learning on the part of students, while also encouraging the modeling of democratic principles of behavior when it comes to conceptions of press freedom and student rights. It also encourages us to think upon the legal framework surrounding student free press rights.


Association of Teachers of Social Studies/United Federation of Teachers- New York CIty 

College and University Faculty Assembly

Georgia Council for the Social Studies

Human Rights Education Community

Nebraska State Council for Social Studies

Massachusetts Council for the Social Studies

Oregon Council for the Social Studies


Elements of inquiry are increasingly a heavy focus of social studies pedagogy and curricular approaches, and allow for students to engage in the practices of civic life and civic literacy as they gain experience with questioning, disciplinary literacy, research, and informed action, with varying degrees of integration into traditional social studies instruction. Student journalism, which may fall under the auspices of both social studies and language arts, is one area of education that aligns well with these demands of inquiry, and is widely recognized as the gateway to participatory civics. Students working on school-sponsored news media learn irreplaceable civic skills, including evaluating the credibility of information sources, understanding and explaining the workings of government agencies, and gathering facts to support persuasive arguments about issues of social and political concern (1). Indeed, the national C3 Framework, with an inherent expectation of media literacy within the context of inquiry, encourages student voice and choice in the pursuit of civic knowledge and practice. Students are able to do their best journalistic work only in a climate that encourages them to grapple with challenging issues free from fear that they, or their journalism teachers, will face retaliation for unflattering news coverage.   

WHEREAS, consuming and creating news about current events is recognized as a foundational part of an effective civics education; and

WHEREAS, school-sponsored journalistic media provides students with a uniquely effective vehicle to learn and share information about the workings of government; and 

WHEREAS, with the estimated loss of 33,000 jobs at newspapers across America since 2008 (2), student media increasingly serves as the “information lifeline” supplying school news to the entire community (3); and

WHEREAS, students widely report that they are intimidated from using journalistic media to discuss contemporary social and political issues, including one 2016 university-led survey in which 53 percent of female high-school student journalists and 27 percent of male student journalists said they had refrained from writing about a topic important to them, because they feared adverse reaction from school authorities (4); and

WHEREAS, in its 1988 opinion, Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier (5), the U.S. Supreme Court established a minimal threshold for freedom of the student press, which over time has proven to be an educationally unsound level of institutional control, irreconcilable with the effective teaching of foundational constitutional principles and values, and has consistently faced encroachment by districts, schools, and even the courts themselves (6); and

WHEREAS, fourteen states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws extending a modest degree of legally protected press freedom to student journalists above-and-beyond that provided by the Hazelwood decision (7), leaving undisturbed a school’s legitimate authority to withhold material that is dangerous, unlawful, or likely to incite a disruption; and

WHEREAS, strong civic education demands students have the opportunity to practice the rights and responsibilities of citizenship in the pursuit of inquiry; and

WHEREAS, students learn regard for First Amendment principles not just from textbooks and lectures, but from observing first-hand whether fundamental constitutional liberties are valued, respected and practiced by the governmental authority figures in their everyday lives (8); and

WHEREAS, a broad array of civic and educational organizations that value both civic learning and student rights, have called for strengthening the legal protections for student journalists at this time of critical need for civic literacy, including the American Bar Association, the National Council of Teachers of English, the American Society of News Editors, and many others (9); now

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED: that NCSS should promote and advocate for laws fortifying the protection of student journalism, so students are guaranteed the freedom to distribute the lawful, non-disruptive editorial content of their choice in school-sponsored journalistic media; students and educators are protected against retaliation for journalistic work that provokes disagreement, challenges majoritarian views, or exposes shortcomings in institutional policies and practices; and administrators, teachers, and students should be educated about the rights and responsibilities of journalists in American society.


  1. Ed Madison, How a journalism class is teaching middle schoolers to fight fake news, THE CONVERSATION (June 5, 2017).
  2. Elizabeth Grieco, U.S. newsroom employment has dropped by a quarter since 2008, with greatest decline at newspapers, PEW RESEARCH CENTER (July 9, 2019).
  3. Frank LoMonte, A free press shouldn’t stop at the schoolyard, CNN.COM (Nov. 29, 2017).
  4. Piotr S. Bobkowski & Genelle I .Belmas, Mixed Message Media: Girls’ Voices and Civic Engagement in Student Journalism, GIRLHOOD STUDIES, Vol. 10 at 89-106 (Mar. 2017).
  5. 484 U.S. 260 (1988).
  6. Dan Kozlowski, “Unchecked Deference: Hazelwood’s Too Broad and Too Loose Application in the Circuit Courts”, Journal of Media Law & Ethics
  7. Jennifer Karchmer, Student press freedom laws gain momentum, QUILL (Apr. 16, 2018).
  8. University of Kansas researchers have documented a positive correlation between practicing high school journalism in a school where First Amendment values are respected and students’ sense of “civic efficacy,” defined as their belief that they can use their voices to have an impact on social and political issues. The findings are summarized at

Copies of the endorsement resolutions of the ABA, NCTE and ASNE are available on the website of the Student Press Law Center at

These resolutions, and others adopted on voice vote by the NCSS House of Delegates must still get final approval from the NCSS Board of Directors in the spring.

FCSS sees these resolutions as an opportunity to speak with the voice of our teachers, and to encourage the direction of the national conversation within social studies.

If you have an idea for a resolution you would like to see drafted and submitted, please feel free to contact FCSS Legislative Chair,Dr. Steve Masyada, to see about making it happen!

Encouraging Civic Literacy in Florida

Civic literacy has long been a concern nationally, and here in Florida, we have worked hard to give our middle school students a strong foundation in civic education. Indeed, 71% of all middle school students scored a 3 or better on the state civic assessment last year. 

state 2019 assessment

That being said, we know that we can always do more. Recently, Florida Governor DeSantis stated that the state would begin assessing the civic literacy of high school students to determine where we stand with that cohort of future citizens. Are there areas of weakness that need to be addressed? This is what the governor’s effort is intended to address.

At this point, implementation of the governor’s desire is being worked out by the experts in Tallahassee. It is likely that students that pass this now-required measure in high school will meet the state’s recently-established college civic literacy assessment, however.

Please be aware that as of now, passage of this yet-to-be-implemented exam will NOT be required for high school graduation or used in teacher evaluations or school grades. It is simply to see where we stand. 

Be sure to watch this space for more information on this new expectation. The Lou Frey Institute will be providing news, information, and resources concerning this new assessment as it is rolled out across the state. We look forward to supporting the governor, and FLDOE, in its efforts and working with teachers across the state in ensuring that Florida continues to lead the nation in civic education and learning!

You can read more about the governor’s civics effort in the Tampa Bay Times and in the Orlando Sentinel.

Florida Council for the Social Studies Establishes New Student Civic Engagement Award!

Doug Award (1)

Dr. Doug Dobson receives a plaque recognizing the student civic engagement award in his honor from incoming FCSS president Peggy Renihan

It is with great excitement and appreciation that UCF’s Lou Frey Institute and its Florida Joint Center for Citizenship subsidiary shares some wonderful news from the Florida Council for the Social Studies (FCSS) recent annual conference, held the weekend of October 18, 2019 in Orlando. FJCC’s director of professional development, Ms. Peggy Renihan, was installed as the president of FCSS, the state’s leading association of professional social studies educators.


At the same time, LFI’s interim executive director, Dr. Steve Masyada, was the recipient of the Dr. B.J. Allen Outstanding Leadership Award. This award honors an outstanding FCSS educator who has served the professional organization in a comprehensive way. It emphasizes service to FCSS and to social studies during the year or years immediately past.


Both Renihan and Masyada, as well as other LFI staff, have played a significant role in both FCSS and social studies and civics education in the state of Florida and nationally, and we at LFI are so pleased to see them recognized.

More excitingly, recently retired Lou Frey Institute Executive Director and now LFI Senior Fellow Dr. Doug Dobson was surprised and honored by FCSS creating a permanent student award in his honor. The Dr. L. Douglas Dobson Student Civic Engagement Award is the Florida Council for the Social Studies’ first student-centered award, and is intended to recognize a K-12 student or students who demonstrated outstanding civic engagement and leadership. Dr. Dobson has long been one of the driving forces behind civic education in Florida, culminating in the passage of the Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Civic Education Act. This act is the reason that Florida is now recognized as a national leader in civics education, and Dr. Dobson’s work, vision, and leadership have helped make the Lou Frey Institute one of the state’s (and the nation’s!) leading civic education organizations. Congratulations to Dr. Dobson for a well-deserved recognition and a legacy that shall live forever through the Florida Council for the Social Studies.

For more information on UCF’s Lou Frey Institute, please be sure to visit their homepage at

Congressman Lou Frey Celebration of Life Nov 1 2019

Lou 3


Good morning friends. We just wanted to let you know that Congressman Lou Frey’s Celebration of Life is open to the public, and we hope to see you join us, as Lou so loved civic education and how it could shape our young people and our state. It will be held this Friday, 10 a.m. at St. John Lutheran Church, 1600 S. Orlando Avenue, Winter Park, 32789. Overflow parking is available at Mead Botanical Garden which is a couple of blocks from the church. Mead Gardens will have a golf cart to transport those who can’t make the walk to the church.

Memorial contributions can be made to: The Lou Frey Institute at UCF, 12443 Research Parkway, Suite 406, Orlando, FL 32826-3297

And if you have a few minutes, please take a read of Representative Stephanie Murphy’s remembrance of Lou on the floor of the House. 

View the Affordable Housing Discussion at UCF, Hosted by the Lou Frey Institute

On October 29, the Lou Frey Institute was thrilled to host a discussion of affordable housing in central Florida, with a particular attention to college students. We were joined at this discussion by Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith (District 49),

Orange County Commissioner Emily Bonilla (District 5),

Rep Anna Eskamani (District 47),

AJ Range (UCF Assistant VP, Neighborhood Relations & Safety Education),
aj range

and Oren Henry (City of Orlando Director of Housing & Community Development).

oren henry

It was wonderfully moderated by LFI’s own Dr. Terri Susan Fine.

The talk addressed questions of rental and housing stock, transportation, homelessness, and of course affordable housing and housing/rental development. We are grateful for all that chose to attend, and for everyone involved in the planning and implementation, especially LFI’s Shena Parks, who was a driving force in putting this wonderful event together. Thank you to to the panelists, who were honest, open, and frank in the discussion on this issue. You can view the entire discussion in the videos below!



Affordable Housing Discussion at UCF Sponsored by the Lou Frey Institute

One of the most pressing issues here in the Orlando area is affordable housing, and everything that goes with it. In addition to our general work in civic education, the Lou Frey Institute is dedicated to facilitating conversations around issues of civic concern. Please consider joining us on Tuesday evening, October 29th, for a discussion about affordable housing. More information is below!

Affordable Housing

Town Hall Meeting

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

6 – 8 p.m.

Morgridge International Reading Center, UCF

The Lou Frey Institute is hosting an Affordable Housing Town Hall at UCF in partnership with Florida State House Representatives

Carlos Guillermo Smith ’03

Anna Eskamani ’12 ’15MNM

and District 5 Commissioner

Emily Bonilla ’03

The event will be held to discuss affordable housing in Central Florida, with a special focus on its impact on college students.

This event is FREE and open to the public!

RSVP is requested.

Parking is available in Parking Garage A

and Lot B5 for $5 per vehicle.


On the Passing of the Honorable Lou Frey, Jr.


It is with tremendous sadness that we share with you the news that Congressman Lou Frey, Jr., whose name graces the Institute that houses the Florida Joint Center for Citizenship, has passed away.

Lou had a long legacy of service to this nation, from service in the Navy (retiring from the Naval Reserve as a Captain in 1978) and in local government here in Orange County to his five terms as a Congressman representing this region and the state of Florida. Lou was a strong advocate for civic education, and with Senator Bob Graham was a driving force in the passage of the Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Civic Education Act.

He was a man who could cross party lines and who appealed to so many in this state for his honor, his attention to constituents, and his love of Florida and his country. Congressman Frey, you will be missed.

We encourage you to learn more about Lou Frey, Jr. here, as there is so much more to him than what we have posted here.

You can also visit his dedicated page on C-Span, where a number of videos illustrate his knowledge of our political system, Congress, and his wonderful character and sense of humor.

And check out this interview the Congressman did with a young student about civic education and public service. A really powerful short piece that says so much about his work and leadership.