Based on a true story, the movie is set between 1992 to 1995. Hilary Swank plays Erin Gruwell, an excited schoolteacher who comes to teach at Woodrow Wilson High School. Her enthusiasm soon suffers a setback when she realises that her class has all ‘at-risk’ students. They are labeled as ‘unteachables’, a complete contrast to the eager students she was expecting.
Erin starts putting in efforts to earn the students’ trust and buys them composition books to record their diaries. What comes out of this activity are rather disturbing and astonishing stories of the students being abused, being evicted from their homes and seeing their friends die. This hits her hard.Determined to reform her students, she works harder, takes two part-time jobs to pay for more books and spends more time at school. Changes are seen in her students as they start to behave, show respect and eagerness to learn more. Erin asks her students to write down their thoughts and experiences in the form of diaries. She compiles all the entries and names it ‘The Freedom Writers Diary’.