2022 CFOG Essay Contest News Release

West Haven, Avon and St. Joseph of Trumbull win top prizes; honorable mentions to Greenwich, Nonnewaug Norwich and Rocky Hill


Morgan Montz, a junior at West Haven High School, has won the first prize of $1,000 in the 2022 Connecticut Foundation for Open Government’s Forrest Palmer High School Essay Contest.

Her essay addressed the use of “predictive policing” technology by some police departments and school boards to identify hotspots and individuals who could pose problems, even monitoring student social media and maintaining data on individuals.

“Gathering information without regard to people’s privacy on the internet and using it to police predictively violates people’s Fourth Amendment rights,” she wrote, “therefore proving the practice of predictive policing to be unconstitutional.”

The contest is named in honor of the late Forrest Palmer, who began the contest in 2000 when he was president of CFOG’s board of directors. CFOG is a nonprofit educational organization founded on the principle that open, transparent government is in the public interest. CFOG sponsors the essay contest to encourage thought and debate among students on public and freedom of information issues.

A second prize of $500 was won by Daniel Hamilton, a junior at Avon High School. He wrote about whether Connecticut law should prevent the public from reviewing the performance evaluations of teachers.

“Freedom of the press is important, but privacy is too,” he wrote. “Placing teacher evaluations in the public domain is a step too far. To ensure continued dignity of the teacher evaluation process, prevailing exemptions should be preserved.”

A third prize of $300 was won by Mallory Doyle, a senior at St. Joseph High School in Trumbull. She also wrote about whether teacher evaluations should be made public.

“My belief is that it needs to be looked at as a legal issue and not the emotional one that it appears to be,” she wrote. “As taxpayers, those that serve the public should answer to their constituents and the taxpayers that fund their salaries. The extra layer of protection for self-interest should not be granted and there should be no additional expectation of privacy than those their peers receive.”

Honorable mention awards of $50 went to Elise Boria of Nonnewaug High School in Woodbury, Vittoria Favia and Connor Hummel of West Haven High, Noah Kim of Greenwich High, Jayson Makowski of Norwich Free Academy and Marvin Odobashi of Rocky Hill High.

Students were asked to write essays on one of three topics:

  1. Should Connecticut law continue to pr­event the public, including students and parents, from reviewing the performance evaluations of teachers?
  1. Police departments and school boards have experimented with “predictive policing” technology to identify hotspots and individuals who could pose problems, even monitoring student social media and maintaining data on individuals. Do these practices violate civil rights protections?
  1. Does the First Amendment protect teachers from being fired for teaching about race or other controversial issues in violation of school policy?

Judges for the contest were Janet Manko, Eileen FitzGerald and Mary Connolly.

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“The Stories Behind the Biggest Stories of 2021”

For the sixth straight year, the Connecticut Foundation for Open Government (CFOG) presented a panel of top Connecticut journalists discussing how they landed the major news stories of 2021.

This year’s stories include the misuse of federal relief funds, the legalization of marijuana and sports betting, juvenile justice, alleged nepotism in state employment, the COVID-19 pandemic, domestic violence and lead poisoning in children.

The event, “The Stories Behind the Biggest Stories of 2021,” was held via Zoom on Monday, Jan. 31 from 7 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

The panel discussion was moderated by Leslie Mayes, a reporter for NBC Connecticut and host of “Connecticut In Color,’’ a program that engages Connecticut residents in conversations about race, ethnicity and gender.

The panel featured Jenifer Frank, a contributing writer for the Connecticut Health Investigative Team; Investigative Reporter Andrew Brown of The CT Mirror; Kasturi Pananjady, a former data reporter for The Mirror who is now with The Philadelphia Inquirer; Political Reporter Daniela Altimari and columnist Kevin Rennie, both of the Hartford Courant; and Investigative Reporter Clare Dignan of Hearst Connecticut Media.

The event was a fundraiser for CFOG, which is a nonprofit corporation founded in 1991 by citizens of Connecticut interested in promoting open government and the public’s right-to-know. Its programs are carried out by a volunteer board of directors drawn from the news media, academia, the law, business and government.


Video Flashback:  

The Stories Behind the Biggest Stories of 2020

The Stories Behind the Biggest Stories of 2018

The Stories behind the Best Stories of 2017

The Stories Behind the Biggest Stories of 2016 

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First Amendment Project

Educators looking for imaginative approaches to enhance their mandated civics requirements might consider a program launched last year by the Connecticut Foundation for Open Government (CFOG).

Under the free CFOG First Amendment Project, teams of lawyers and journalists visit participating high school classes to discuss the history and practical applications of First Amendment, Freedom of Information and Open Government policies.

These lively, knowledgeable and interactive sessions drew very positive results and CFOG plans to expand the program to even more high schools during the current academic year. Among the high schools participating in the inaugural year of the program were East Lyme High School and Lyman Hall in Wallingford. To increase awareness of the long-hallowed rights, presenters will not only examine the history of Free Speech in America but examine ways that citizens – including students – can utilize laws and regulations to protect their speech and get access to information being closely held by the government.

Since participation will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis, contact Mitchell Pearlman at CFOG.

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The First Amendment Works for You

Unlike any other revolutionaries in history, America’s Founding Fathers didn’t keep the power to themselves; they enshrined our Liberties in the Bill of Rights. On Tuesday, January 23, 2018 veteran journalist Denis Horgan and lawyer Dan Klau from the Connecticut Foundation for Open Government conducted a discussion about how the First Amendment protects we the people from losing the right to speak out, to have a voice, and to know what the government is doing.

This liberty is always under attack at so many levels, possibly never more so than today.  Where did this precious right come from? How can you make it work? How can you defend it? The program’s two speakers are stalwart defenders of the First Amendment and led a wide-ranging and helpful discussion of the core values that distinguishes this nation from all others.

The free program at Connecticut’s Old State House was part of the “Conversations at Connecticut’s Old State House” series.