The new TEAM Westport logo, a tapestry-like design that aims to reflect the “intersectionality” of race, gender, ethnicity and religious issues for which the committee advocates.

WESTPORT — When do efforts to curb hate speech violate the constitutionally guaranteed right to free speech?

That issue is often at the flashpoint of the current-day societal divide, fueled at cyber speed by social media and online platforms.

Hate speech and the civil exchange of diverse opinions is the challenging topic for this year’s Teen Diversity Essay Contest, co-sponsored by TEAM Westport, the town’s multicultural advocacy committee, and the Westport Library.

The contest, now in its 11th year, is open to students in grades nine through 12 attending public or private high schools in Westport, as well as Westporters attending high schools in other communities.

Deadline for submitting entries is 11:59 p.m. Monday, March 4. For additional contest details and the entry form, click here.

Contest organizers said that, depending on the number  and caliber of entries, at the judges’ discretion, up to three cash prizes will be awarded — a $1,000 first prize, $750 for second prize and $500 for third. A ceremony to present awards to the contest winners is planned May 6 at the library.

Following is the formal prompt for contest entries:

“The regulation of hate speech must balance limiting speech that may be considered offensive, threatening or hurtful with the constitutional right of free expression. 

“In 1,000 words or less, with respect to speech that targets specific people or groups based on race, religion, ethnicity, and/or LGBTQIA+ identification, consider the guidelines one should set for themselves within Westport’s schools and in our community. 

“Explain how a diversity of opinions can be safely and respectfully shared. Are the rules different in a school community than on social media?”

Harold Bailey Jr., TEAM Westport’s chairman, said in the statement announcing the essay contest: “In our current environment, hate speech seems to rend the fabric of our society further on a daily basis.

“We look forward to this input from our young citizens to help us inextricably mend that fabric well into the future.”