Fallon Frawley, a senior at West Haven High School, has won the first prize of $1,000 in this year’s Connecticut Foundation for Open Government (CFOG) high school essay contest.
Her essay held that operators of social networks were not liable and should not be sued for slanderous or cyber bullying messages.
A second prize of $500 was won by Diana Pimer, also a student at West Haven High who wrote that public schools should punish any speech by students that is likely to cause disruption of the educational process even that speech occurs off school grounds.
The third place prize of $300 goes to Byron J. Perpetua, a student at Kingswood-Oxford School in West Hartford. His essay defended student free speech.
Honorable mention awards of $50 went to Douglas Buckheit of Joseph A. Foran High School; Kayla Toole of West Haven High School; Amirul Annar of West Haven School; Nicole Gutter of Ridgefield High School and Stacey Matakaetis of West Haven High School.
Students were asked to write essays on one of three topics. The topics were:
1. A legislative proposal would prohibit Connecticut public schools from punishing or censoring any speech by students unless it is “likely” to cause material and substantial disruption to the educational process. Is this the right standard? Should it make a difference if the speech occurs outside of school such as on e-mail or Facebook?
2. Do you believe your city or town government is open and transparent and gives all the citizens the opportunity to comment and implement change if they disagree with decisions made by government officials?
3. Newspapers, television and radio stations are legally responsible for what appears in their publications or broadcasts. Should the law permit people who have been libeled, slandered, “cyber bullied” or whose privacy has been invaded to sue the owners or operators of social networks such as Facebook, My Space and Twitter for such offensive statements by individual account holders?
Judges for the contest were Bob Estabrook, Janet Manko, George Krimsky and Mary Connolly.
There were 81 essays entered in this year’s contest from students in 12 Connecticut schools.
CFOG sponsors the essay contest 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.