Students asked to address dress codes and slogans in 2015 Constitution Day Essay Contest

The New Hampshire Supreme Court and 10 newspapers invite students to enter the 2015 Constitution Day Essay Contest and discuss a topic that tests the potential limits of our right to free speech: mandated dress codes and slogans.

In 2004, Congress directed that “Constitution Day” should be observed in schools on Sept. 17 with educational programs about the history and signing of the Constitution. Newspapers serving New Hampshire schools have joined the state Supreme Court and Nackey S. Loeb School of Communications to present an essay contest for students in grades 5-8 and 9-12.

Constitution Day essay topic and rules

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 350-500 words and submitted by Oct. 6 to one of the participating newspapers. The student must live in that newspaper’s circulation area.

Participating newspapers are: the Concord Monitor, Conway Daily Sun, Derry News, Foster’s Daily Democrat, The Keene Sentinel, Laconia Daily Sun, New Hampshire Union Leader, Portsmouth Herald, The Telegraph and Valley News. Each newspaper will select up to two local winners from grades 5-8 and up to two local winners from grades 9-12.

The local winners become statewide finalists. The state Supreme Court will select one statewide winner in each category from among the finalists.

All statewide finalists, their families and teachers will be honored at a reception at the state Supreme Court in November.

For complete rules, research links and a required entry form, please visit:

For additional information contact:

David Tirrell-Wysocki


Friday, August 10, 2018
Thursday, August 17, 2017