City Rescinds Special Needs Student’s Award for Designing City Sticker

In 2012, The Blake Horwitz Law Firm represented a special needs student after the City of Chicago rescinded his award for winning the annual design contest for the City’s new city sticker.

According to CBS News, the contest originated in 1995. Students across Chicagoland would enter artwork related to an annual theme, and the public would then select 10 finalists each year. The winner got $1,000 and his or her artwork would be the design for the city stickers that adorn cars across the city. As reported by Chicago Tribune, the student, a then-15 year-old at Lawrence Hall Youth Services, won the City’s annual design contest. However, just before the stickers were set to print, City Clerk Susana Mendoza held a news conference announcing that she was changing the design due to concerns that the winning image contained gang symbols.

As described in another article by CBS News, the boy was simply trying to honor first responders with his art, which showed four hands reaching up to the logos of Chicago’s first responders. According to the boy, he mimicked the hand symbols that his teacher gave him as a sample for his artwork. The art had special meaning for the student, who was rescued by firefighters when he was four years old. He has since suffered from anxiety and depression from having his award taken away and the publicity from the incident. In years since, the City no longer hosts an annual competition open to students to design its city stickers.

If you or someone you know share a similar story, contact The Blake Horwitz Law Firm at (312) 676-2100 or

Read more about this case below:

  • CBS News, “A Look At The Gang Sign Controversy That Preceded The End Of The Student Design Contest For Chicago City Stickers”
  • CBS News, “Boy Who Drew Controversial Sticker: ‘This Picture Is Clean’”
  • Chicago Sun Times, “City clerk investigates: Does city sticker have gang signs?”
  • Chicago Tribune, “Chicago city clerk scraps sticker design amid gang concerns”