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Constitution Day Essay Contest
September 17, 2015

In 2004, the Congress decided that "Constitution Day" should be observed in schools each year on September 17 with educational programs about the history and signing of the Constitution. To help celebrate Constitution Day, seven newspapers and the New Hampshire Supreme Court have sponsored an annual "Constitution Day Essay Contest" for grades 5-12 on a topic related to our constitutional rights as citizens.

Teachers and students take note! Here's a fun way to discuss and debate some difficult questions and learn a few things about the remarkable document that has governed our nation for 228 years.

Winning essays will be published in the participating newspapers and winners will be invited, along with parents and teachers, to a special reception at the state Supreme Court and to the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications First Amendment Awards.

Read 2014's winning essays » See photos of the event »

2015 Constitution Day Essay Contest
     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?  


Research materials:

American Civil Liberties Union of Vermont discussion on school dress codes.

First Amendment Center: Collection of stories regarding dress codes.

Atlantic:  Dress codes from the point of view of dress code enforcers.

Washington Post: Editing yearbook photos to comply with dress code

Fox News: Do dress codes unfairly target girls?

NPR: dress codes

Denver Post: Dress codes in DC, tourists vs. locals

Court dress code, Roswell, NM

Court dress code, Washington, DC

San Antonio Express-News: Story about banned t-shirt at Texas school

The Guardian: Story on controversial t-shirt restriction



Essay Contest Rules

• Open to students in grades 5-12 in New Hampshire or served by participating papers in Maine, Massachusetts and Vermont.

• Typewritten essays must be 350-500 words. Submissions will be judged on understanding of the issue, clear writing and thinking, presentation, grammar and spelling.

• Guidance from teachers and parents is encouraged, but the contest is designed as a student exercise, and, as such, essays are expected to be the student’s original work.

• Essay entry form must include the following information:
Student's name, school, grade, home address, email address and phone
number. Teacher’s name, email address and phone number.

• Submit essay to one of the participating newspapers. The student must live in that newspaper’s circulation area.

• Students may submit one essay only. Duplicate entries
will be disallowed.

• Essays must be emailed or postmarked by Oct. 6, 2015.

• Each newspaper will select up to two local winners from grades 5-8
and up to two local winners from grades 9-12. These local winners become statewide finalists.

• From these finalists, the state Supreme Court will select
one statewide winner in each category.

• Participating newspapers will publish their local winners’ essays.

• All statewide finalists, along with their families and teachers, will be
invited to a reception at the state Supreme Court. The two statewide winners also will be invited to the annual First Amendment Awards presented by the Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications.


2015 Participating Newspapers:


Concord Monitor
David Sangiorgio, Publisher
Box 1177
Concord, NH 03302-1177
(603) 224-5301
Conway Daily Sun
Mark Guerringue, Publisher
64 Seavey Street
North Conway, NH 03860
(603) 356-3456
Derry News
The Eagle-Tribune
Steve Baskin, Asst. Circulation Director
100 Turnpike Street
North Andover, MA 01845
(978) 946-2302
Foster’s Daily Democrat
Howard Altschiller
Executive Editor
150 Venture Drive
Dover, NH 03820
(603) 570-2202
The Keene Sentinel
Paul. R. Miller, Executive Editor
Box 546
Keene, NH 03431
(603) 352-1234
The Laconia Daily Sun
Edward J. Engler, President & Editor
1127 Union Ave
Laconia, NH 03246
(603) 737-2015
New Hampshire Union Leader
Shannon Sullivan
Community Relations Manager
Box 9555
Manchester, NH 03108
(603) 206-7833
Portsmouth Herald
Howard Altschiller
Executive Editor
111 New Hampshire Ave.
Portsmouth NH 03801
(603) 570-2202
The Telegraph
Roger Carroll, Managing Editor
17 Executive Drive
Hudson, NH 03051
(603) 882-2741
Valley News
Martin Frank, Editor
24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784
(603) 298-8711

Web Resources

Learn all about the Constitution from a website created by retired US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Conner:

Text of the US Constitution

NH Department of Education

Constitution Day resources, programs and lesson plans for teachers

NHPTV Knowledge Network

Visit for links to online classroom video on the U.S. Constitution, lesson plans, and reviewed websites. 

Information from The Bill of Rights Institute

New Hampshire Bar Association

Find more online resources about the U.S. Constitution

 Information from the National Constitution Center, Philadelphia, PA

 Education Resources for use on Constitution Day

Guide to the Constitution and "civic education in the real world."

Information on the US Constitution provided by the federal court system

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