News and Information
October 13, 2016

2017 High School Essay Competition Explores Transgender Legal Issues

Should the law protect transgender students from discrimination on the basis of their gender identities? Is it discrimination for a transgender student to be prohibited from using the restroom or locker room of their gender identity? Should the federal government establish a nationwide policy on transgender students in public schools, or are state governments and local school boards better suited to make these decisions? 

Those are the questions the Virginia State Bar (VSB) is asking students to address in its twenty-fifth annual Law in Society essay competition that awards almost $7,000 in prize money to eight Virginia scholars.

Virginia high school students age 19 or younger and enrolled in grades 9–12 or a home-school equivalent are eligible to submit an essay for a chance to win the competition and cash prizes. The contest is co-sponsored by the VSB Litigation Section and Communications Committee. The deadline for submissions is Thursday, February 10, 2017.

In 2016, the US Department of Education and Department of Justice issued a joint letter to all schools receiving federal funding stating that the prohibition of discrimination on the basis of “sex” under Title IX of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 encompasses discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. This year’s essay competition asks students to discuss these issues and recent transgender lawsuits as they relate to the above questions.

Essays are limited to 750-1,000 words, and are judged on how well they demonstrate the student’s understanding of the role and value of the legal system in everyday life. Entries will be judged by a panel of volunteer lawyers from across the state.  The purpose of the contest is to awaken an interest in law and appreciation of the US Constitution.

The first place winner will receive $2,300 and the winning essay will be published on the VSB website. Other awards include $1,850 (second place), $1,350 (third place), and honorable mentions of $250 each. All winners receive a plaque and copy of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style. Awards will be presented in the spring at the winners’ schools.

More information, including contest rules and last year’s winning essay, is posted at

Updated: Oct 13, 2016