CONCORD — The New Hampshire Supreme Court and 11 newspapers are inviting students to enter the 2015 Constitution Day Essay Contest and discuss a topic that tests the potential limits of our right to free speech: dress codes and/or restrictions.
In 2004, Congress directed that Constitution Day should be observed in schools of September 17 with educational programs about the history and signing of the document. Newspapers, including The Laconia Daily Sun, have joined the Supreme Court and Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications to present an essay contest for students in grades 5 through 8 and 9 through 12.
The 2015 Constitution Day essay topic is: Schools and other public places (including government buildings and sports venues) frequently mandate dress codes or ban certain types of messages, such as those conveyed through T-shirt slogans. In your opinion, do such bans or dress restrictions violate First Amendment rights of free speech? Do such messages or choice of clothing, in fact, constitute "speech"? Are there valid reasons for such bans, such as safety considerations? Does the subject matter of a message make a difference? Who should be responsible for determining whether such messages do violate free speech rights?
Essays must be 350 to 500 works in length and be submitted to The Laconia Daily Sun (1127 Union Ave. 03246) or another participating newspapers by October 6. Other participating newspapers are: Concord Monitor, The Conway Daily Sun, Derry News, Foster's Daily Democrat, The Keene Sentinel, Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, Nashua Telegraph, N.H. Union Leader, Portsmouth Herald and Valley News (Lebanon). Participants must live in a host newspapers general circulation area.
Each participating newspaper will select two local winners from grades 5 through 8 and up to two local winners from grades 9 through 12. These local winners will become statewide finalists. From these finalists, the state Supreme Court will select one statewide winner in each age category.
All statewide finalists, their families and teachers will be honored at a reception at the Supreme Court building in November.
For complete rules, research links and a required entry form, please visit www.courts.state.nh.us/student/contest.htm.
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