Interlake's Justina Chen wins Washington Coalition for Open Government's Scott Johnson essay contest

Justina Chen - Courtesy Photo
Justina Chen
— image credit: Courtesy Photo

An Interlake high school senior won $1,000 for her essay on open government.

The Washington Coalition for Open Government announced Thursday that Justina Chen's essay, "On Principle," was selected from entries throughout the state to take the top prize in the Scott Johnson Open Government Essay Contest.

Chen's essay argues for the necessity of the Open Public Meetings and Public Records acts in maintaining a government that serves its constituency. She used, as an example, a 2010 incident in which the Bellevue School Board ruled a math advisory committee's meetings on curriculum were not public.

"In 2006, however, the state attorney general's open government ombudsman gave an informal opinion that the Puyallup School District's instructional materials committees were a policy-making body of the district, and were thus subject to the Open Public Meetings Act," Chen wrote in her essay. "Still, the school district elected to privately revise and implement the new math programs. The school board ignored the interests of the district students whom they are obligated to serve. Washington citizens need the Open Public Meetings Act to prevent violations of their rights such as this."

Chen, of Newcastle, will attend Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., in the fall to study engineering.

The essay contest, sponsored by both WCOG and the Stokes Lawrence law firm, is named for Scott Johnson, a longtime Coalition board member. He was elected to a Superior Court judgeship in 2012 but died of a heart attack before he could take office.


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