2023 Excellence in Newsletters, Single Newsletter finalist

School (in)Security

About the Project

Following the devastating school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, last year, the back-to-school season became particularly fraught for parents across the country, whose fears for their children’s safety on campus surged to their highest point in more than two decades.

That’s one of the reasons why The 74 launched the School (in)Security newsletter in late September to highlight how educators and lawmakers are responding to increased parental anxieties in starkly divergent ways — from a greater focus on students’ mental health to militarized campus police with collapsible rifles strapped to their chests.

But that is only part of the complexity of covering school safety. There is an innate tension between school security imperatives and students’ civil rights. Keeping kids free from harm at school while also safeguarding those individual rights is difficult terrain. We wanted to help students, families and educators better navigate it. As an investigative reporter at The 74, Mark Keierleber has spent years covering the school security industry, gun violence in schools, online student surveillance and student data privacy. He understands that security measures that might look reassuring to parents or school leaders often have unforeseen and damaging consequences for students. Our decision to launch the newsletter also came at a moment when books bans and anti-LGBTQ rules were surging, often placing student thought and expression on a collision course with adult interests in their schools and communities.

We set out to be at the center of that conversation by elevating the best journalism, freshest research and compelling advocacy exploring those competing forces. Mark leveraged his deep reporting experience and his wide sourcing network to create a twice-monthly newsletter that’s become a must-read for those concerned with the rights, safety and well-being of K-12 students nationally. Mark is recognized as a subject matter expert on school safety and security — he wrote the coverage guidelines on these topics for the Education Writers Association and has been a guest on multiple news broadcasts, radio shows, podcasts and professional panels discussing his reporting. Mark’s followers know they will learn something new every time School (in)Security lands in their inbox.

Eamonn Fitzmaurice, The 74’s art and technology director, was a key collaborator, creating a bold yellow-and-black design for School (in)Security that conjures up an edgy school bus. That visual element has carried over to Mark’s stories that anchor almost every School (in)Security edition, creating a recognizable brand and marrying the newsletter content with the articles on our site. Laura Fay, The 74’s director or audience and product, provides critical advice on how to package and deliver the newsletter in a way that will get folks to open and spend time with it. Mark and our editing team consistently strive to strike the right balance and tone, speaking to readers in an engaging, conversational voice while respecting the seriousness of our subject matter. And, because you need the light and the dark, we end each issue with an Emotional Support 74 pet photo, usually Mark’s pup Pepper.