FIRE’s 2019 Free Speech Essay Contest for high schoolers is now live

September 9, 2019

High school students across the country are settling back into classroom routines and getting ready to exercise their critical thinking skills with challenging discussions, thoughtful exchanges of ideas, and open, rigorous debate. Essential to any engaging classroom experience, of course, is a concept we want more students to think about: freedom of speech.

Right on cue, FIRE’s annual Free Speech Essay Contest is now open for the 2019-2020 school year. Each year, we award $20,000 in scholarship prizes to nine winners — with $10,000 going to the top essay writer. 

In past years, we’ve asked students to write about the relationship between free speech, democracy, and their future college experiences. This year, however, our essay question is based on our new Free Speech Comic, and asks entrants to review the comic and respond to the following prompt: 

Towards the beginning of “Finding Your Voice: A Free Speech Comic,” Jeremy, one of the main characters, expresses uncertainty with regard to his feelings about an event at his high school addressing school violence. How might the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech help an unsure student like Jeremy to develop more informed opinions on this and other topics? 

View the comic for free online, download it, or request a free copy to be mailed directly to you. (Even the shipping is free!) 

Submissions must be between 700900 words, and we must receive them by the end of the year (December 31st.) The contest is open to current high school juniors and seniors. You can find more details about the essay contest at, and you can view some of our past winners here

Sure, you have months to write your submission, but why procrastinate? Get a jump on the new school year by reading about your free speech rights and submitting your essay early. We look forward to reading your entry!