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

  FIRST PLACE: $3,000*
   SECOND PLACE: $1,700
   THIRD PLACE: $1000
  *Plus! Travel and Accommodations to 
     attend the 2022 Ninth Circuit Judicial 
     Conference in Big Sky, Montana.

An essay and video contest for high school students in the western United States and Pacific Islands. Sponsored by the United States Courts for the Ninth Circuit.

The contest is now closed.

  *May be subject to federal, state or local taxes unless exemptions apply.



essay & video submissions are now closed

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

The First Amendment to the United States Constitution provides that “Congress shall make no law … abridging
the freedom of speech, or of the press ….”

But how does this constitutional right apply to students?

More than fifty 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 also has said that students’ rights are not the
same as “rights of adults in other settings.” Decades later, the Internet and
social media allow students to express themselves in many different ways in
addition to banners and symbolic clothing, with greater reach and impact
than in the past.

The 2022 Ninth Circuit Civics Contest asks students to address:

Participants are asked to consider 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.


Individual students can express their thoughts and ideas in an essay of between 500 and 1,000 words. Individuals
or teams of up to three students can produce a 3-5 minute video on the theme. A student may submit both an
essay and a video, but only one of each.

The essay or video should 1) demonstrate an understanding of the history and development of student free
speech rights and responsibilities under the First Amendment; and 2) address the role of students, schools and
the courts in considering and applying these rights and responsibilities.

The 2022 Ninth Circuit Civics Contest is open to high school students in nine western states and two Pacific
island jurisdictions. Students from public, private, and parochial and charter schools and home-schooled
students of equivalent grade status may enter.

The contest is sponsored by the Ninth Circuit Public Information and Community Outreach Committee (PICO).

Contest rules are available here. Both essays and videos can be submitted electronically starting January 17, 2022. Deadline for entries is 11:59 p.m. Pacific Time, March 28, 2022.

What are students’ free speech rights – and responsibilities – on and off campus?
A backpack with three patches attached: a hashtag symbol, an @ symbol and the acronym “ICYMI” for “in case you missed it.”

Download the Contest Flyer, Contest Resources and the Contest Rules. 


Questions?  For more information, please contact the Ninth Circuit Office of the Circuit Executive, (415) 355-8873 /