Milford High School students win essay contest

MILFORD – Two Milford High School students have won the New Hampshire Constitution Day Essay Contest this year.

Kayla Bullwinkel won the overall state award – a first for a Milford High student. She and Megan Hammes submitted their essays to The Telegraph of Nashua as the sponsoring newspaper for this area, and Hammes won the Telegraph’s award.

More than 700 students submitted essays, and finalists were chosen from those submitted to participating newspapers whose circulation areas include their schools.

The state Supreme Court chose the statewide winners.

This year, students were asked to write about the conflict between the constitutional right to free speech and the proliferation of cyberbullying – harmful comments about another person transmitted via social media or texting.

Bullwinkel cited the Tinker v. Des Moines Supreme Court case in which the court ruled in 1969 that schools can’t prevent student speech or activity that doesn’t “materially and substantially disrupt or interfere” with education. She wrote in her essay that while schools don’t have the right to “invade” a student’s online account without cause, they do have a right to punish cyberbullies who disrupt education.

“While the First Amendment must be protected, so must the lives and the education of students,” she wrote. “When a student’s opportunity to learn is ripped from them as a result of cyber bullying, schools have a right and a duty to intervene on behalf of the victim.”

The winners were honored at a reception Nov. 18 at the New Hampshire Supreme Court, along with the 18 local finalists sponsored by nine newspapers.

In 2004, Congress declared that Constitution Day should be observed in schools on Sept. 17 each year with programs about the history of the Constitution. The New Hampshire contest is held as part of the Constitution Day observance.

Kathy Cleveland can be reached at kcleveland@cabinet.com or 673-3100, ext. 304.