2022 Middle School Civics Contest

The First Amendment and the Schoolhouse Gate: Students’ Free Speech Rights

Contest Rules Set Forth Below

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press . . . .” How does this constitutional right apply to students?

More than 50 years ago, the United States Supreme Court said that students do not “shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech and expression at the schoolhouse gate”- but it has also been said that students’ rights are not the same as the “rights of adults in other settings.” Decades later, the internet and social media allow students to express themselves in many different ways.

The theme of the 2022 middle school civics contest is “What are students’ free speech rights –and responsibilities-on and off campus? Students are asked to express what rights the First Amendment provides to students engaging in free speech-both inside and outside of school. Participants should also consider the responsibilities, if any, that students, schools, or the government have with respect to speech by students, including whether it may cause harm to others.

Students are asked to express their thoughts and ideas addressing the theme in creative ways. They can submit photography, artwork, poetry, or even a video of a dance, short play, or an interview. If students choose to make a video, it should be limited to a maximum of three minutes. Regardless of what creative form students choose, a student should submit a written explanation of the creation that should be no longer than 200 words. Students can only be involved in the production of one creation. Students are encouraged to reference historical examples and current events in their submissions and/or the written explanation of their submissions.

The contest is open to middle school students in Nevada. Students from public, private, parochial or charter schools, and home-schooled students of equivalent grade status may enter. Children of federal judges, chambers staff, and employees of the federal court are not eligible to participate. Please include in your submission your full name, grade level, and the name of your school.

The winning pieces will be distributed, and videos shown, to several judges and lawyers working in Nevada. The first place winner will receive $250.00, the second place winner will receive $200.00, and the third place winner will receive $150.00.

The contest is sponsored by the United States District Court for the District of Nevada. All entries must be submitted electronically by 5:00pm PST on April 29, 2022. If a student chooses to enter a contest by creating artwork, a photograph or video of the art must be submitted. Please note that all contest rules are set forth in this document. Link to the entry form is located below.

Questions about the contest and submissions can be sent to the Clerk’s Office at
AAFandCivics@nvd.uscourts.gov. Alternatively, participants may call Sharon Hardin with
questions at (702)-464-5563.

Judging will be based on the following criteria:

  1. Understanding of constitutional principles in written explanation of submission: 50%
    • Clarity and effectiveness in explaining how the submission meets the theme of the contest 25%
    • Grammar, spelling, and composition: 10%
    • Use of references to constitutional principles and examples in history or current events to explain your piece: 15%
  2. Originality, quality, and creativity of the submission as it relates to the theme: 50%

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