Immaculate, Greenwich and Housatonic students win top prizes;
honorable mentions to East Lyme, Greenwich and West Haven
Michael Hudak, a junior at Immaculate High School in Danbury, has won the first prize of $1,000 in this year’s Connecticut Foundation for Open Government (CFOG) high school essay contest.
He wrote about violent video games and the questions raised about them after the December 2012 shootings in Newtown. “By their very nature video games strive for realism, not only in the way they graphically portray the deadly effects of shootings and bombings but in the way they authentically represent the tools of warfare,” he wrote. “It stands to reason that if we don’t allow schools to use military weapons’ manuals as textbooks in their curriculum for students, we certainly shouldn’t permit video game manufacturers to sell them to minors.”
CFOG, a nonprofit educational organization, sponsors the essay contest each year to encourage thought and debate among students on public and freedom of information issues and to increase student knowledge of the value of open government in a democratic society.
A second prize of $500 was won by Nicola Traynor, a junior at Greenwich High School, who also wrote about the Newtown shootings and the availability of violent video games to minors. “While a law cannot be made to censure video games any more than one can be made to censure movies, video games should be regulated through an enforced rating system in the same way as movies,” she wrote. “Despite adverse risks, free speech must be preserved in the entertainment industry.”
A third prize of $300 was won by Hillary Henrici, a senior at Housatonic Valley Regional High School in Falls Village, who wrote about efforts to limit student speech on school grounds. “The right to be able to speak one’s mind and initiate change is an important aspect of life that is commonly taken for granted,” she wrote. “The First Amendment guarantees Americans freedom of speech and there is little reason for exceptions in a school environment.”
Honorable mention awards of $50 went to Nicholas Abbott and Shira Rieke of Greenwich High School, Unni Kurumbail of East Lyme High School and Melissa Jagrosse of West Haven High School.
Students were asked to write essays on one of three topics: The topics were:
- The December 2012 shootings in Newtown brought new demands that minors be banned from buying or renting violent video games. Should these games have the same First Amendment protection given to literature, journalism and political speech?
- The First Amendment gives the greatest protection to political speech, but should there be limitations in the case of outright lying to the public by candidates and political action committees? Should the identities of donors to all political groups be made public?
- An East Haddam student got in trouble with school administrators for advocating breast cancer awareness by wearing an “I (heart) Boobies” bracelet. A Wolcott High student was told to remove an anti-gay T-shirt that he wore on a school day dedicated to anti-bullying efforts. Should there be limits on student speech on school grounds?
Judges for the contest were Janet Manko, George Krimsky, Martin Margulies, Lyn Hottes, Forrest Palmer and Mary Connolly.