Two Bronxville High School students have won prizes in the New York Civil Liberties Union Bill of Rights Essay Contest. Junior Charles Vorbach won first place overall for the Lower Hudson Region, which is comprised of seven counties, while senior Nicola Phillips won first prize for the Bronxville’s school-wide competition
“It is a tremendous honor for both award winners to be recognized by the NYCLU for a variety of reasons,” social studies teacher Steve Klurfeld said. “The attention to historical detail, level of analysis of complex legal discussions and clarity of speech in both essays is very impressive.”
The Civil Liberties Union Bill of Rights Essay Contest focused on the right of free speech and entities that serve the public. Students were required to assess the constitutionality of an MTA decision about political advertising. According to contest rules, the essays that get selected as best must effectively address the topic, have a structured argument, cite appropriate background information and case law, and display quality writing.
“The organization is focused on civil liberty issues, so they are experts in this field, which means that our winners provided the highest level of analysis of the essay question,” Klurfeld said. “Additionally, the contest called for analysis of a very complex situation that appears difficult to resolve on the surface, and even more complex when you examine the issue closely.”
Vorbach and Phillips were both recognized during the Bill of Rights Day Awards Ceremony at St. Paul’s Church in Mt. Vernon on Dec. 15, which also marked the anniversary of the ratification of the Bill of Rights. The church, a National Historic Site, is where the contested election of 1733 took place. At the time, newspaper publisher John Peter Zenger was arrested for reporting that the election was rigged. He is remembered as one of the earliest fighters for freedom of the press.
Both students were presented with a certificate from the NYCLU. In addition, Vorbach was awarded $300 and Phillips won $100 for their respective essays.
“The writing submitted by our students contained many qualities that I hope all of our students strive to achieve,” Klurfeld said.