TEAM Westport Essay Contest Adds Anonymity Option

TEAM Westport’s 4th annual essay contest — on the topic of white privilege — has grabbed international attention. Coverage on CNN, in the New York Times, The Guardian and on alt-right websites caused some high school students (and their parents) to wonder what might happen if they go public with their writing.

Realizing the importance of expressing one’s views — but also the reality of privacy — organizers are offering the option of anonymity.

When the 3 winning essays are announced on April 3 at the Westport Library,  students who chose private acknowledgement of their accomplishment will have their essays read by contest judges. Those who chose public acknowledgement can read their essays themselves. All winning essays will be published — without names, for those who wish to remain anonymous.

The 85 essays that make up the Federalist Papers were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay -- and published under the pseudonym "Publius."

The 85 essays that make up the Federalist Papers were written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison and John Jay — and published under the pseudonym “Publius.”

“The national and international coverage surrounding this year’s TEAM Westport teen diversity essay contest has provoked verbal and written harassment of some committee members, and Town of Westport employees and personnel,” sponsors said in a press release.

“The majority of this type of correspondence appears to have originated from out of town and, generally, from out of state. There is concern, however, that this increased coverage may have made potential contestants reticent to submit an essay for fear of similar harassment. Because the well-being of young people in the community is a priority, the essay sponsors have determined that the option of anonymity is appropriate.”

The deadline for submission is Monday (February 27). The contest is open to all students in grades 9 through 12 who attend Staples High School or another school in Westport, or who reside in Westport and attend school elsewhere. Click here for the application.


7 responses to “TEAM Westport Essay Contest Adds Anonymity Option

  1. What country are we living in? This kind of behavior is unacceptable and must not be tolerated. Free speech is our right. Threats are not free speech. Let’s agree to disagree without losing our civility.

  2. Mary (Cookman) Schmerker Staples 1958

    I am delighted to see the option of anonymity offered but saddened that we have come to that in this country. The First Amendment is first because of the importance of being allowed to have an opinion differing from that of any official source. I am excited that the Westport school system has a program such as this available. I can’t wait to read the winners. Speak up. Your opinion matters.

  3. Dan, thank you for your ongoing support of TEAM Westport’s activities–and all the positive things that happen in our Town. Westport is lucky to have you.

  4. Beth Orlan Berkowitz

    I agree, it’s sad that our freedom of speech is being questioned and we had to offer the option of anonymity. I am glad this is an option for some families due to the harrassment of people violating the freedom of speech by using it as a way to “bully” instead of appreciating the concept that people may have different opinions or perspectives when allowed to submit their essays to the contest as part of the first amendment!

    Sad that people in this country felt it necessary to get angry and mean about an essay contest that they either aren’t eligible to participate in or have the option of not participating if they are eligible.

    I guess our presidential role model is sending out a message to those folks telling them they have any right they want to say whatever they want to whomever they want, but anyone who has a different point of view they should try to shut down from voicing their opinions. So in their alternate universe of fake facts they are the only ones with freedom of speech and everyone else doesn’t have the first amendment right. Terribly sad.

  5. As someone who once long ago won an essay contest in this town, I am thrilled with this chosen topic. I’m proud of my town!! Great topic, now more than ever, thought provoking and important in a nation so racially and economically divided, and in a town where students do live with extraordinary privileges. It’s good to reflect. THANK YOU EDCATORS FOR YOUR COURAGE TO ASK A GOOD QUESTION!