The Connecticut Foundation for Open Government (“CFOG”) is a nonprofit organization committed to promoting people’s understanding of what their government is doing, a concept that is at the heart of our democratic society.  One of CFOG’s goals is to increase awareness among younger citizens about the importance of the state Freedom of Information Act, which ensures citizen access to government records and meetings, and the impact the act has on their daily lives.  

CFOG sponsors:

  • an annual Essay Contest for high school students on Right to Know and First Amendment Issues, and
  • a new initiative focused on the First Amendment that brings a journalist and an attorney with expertise on First Amendment issues into the classroom to share their expertise and experiences.

2018 High School Essay Contest – NOW UNDERWAY

Students choose one of the following topics:

  1. After a student-organized speech, “It is OK to be White,” ended in a shouting and shoving match, University of Connecticut President Susan Herbst proposed new rules for speakers and events on campus. Safety concerns and the background of speakers and their affiliates will have to be evaluated under the rules. Does this hamper free expression on campus?
  2. The U.S. Supreme Court is considering a case involving a Colorado baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, citing his religious beliefs. The Colorado Civil Rights Commission found the baker violated the state’s anti-discrimination law. Does the First Amendment protect the baker’s decision not to make a cake for a same-sex couple?
  3. Does the First Amendment protect the right of National Football League players to kneel during the national anthem as a protest against racial inequality and police treatment of minorities?


Essays must be at least 400 words but no more than 600 words and emailed no later than March 28, 2018, to Essays should include the student’s full name, school, grade and teacher email contact information.

Winners will be announced by May 15, 2018.

First Prize: $1,000     Second Prize: $500     Third Prize: $300     Honorable Mentions: $50

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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