Will Goldilocks be found guilty at trial? What does it take to become a judge? What does a courtroom look like? Hundreds of Hillsborough Schools students from our Achievement Schools and Title I Schools answered those questions and got a first-hand look at the inter-workings of the legal system during Law Week.
“Law Week is a dedicated week, in which the Hillsborough County Bar Association – the Young Lawyers Division and Hillsborough Schools partner,” said Debra Blossom, Hillsborough Schools Volunteer Services Assistant Department Manager.
At each level – elementary, middle and high school – students participate in some way.
Third and fourth grade students have the opportunity to experience a mock trial. “That’s where attorneys and judges will come into the schools and put on a trial from a nursery rhyme. This year it’s Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” said Blossom.
Cleveland Elementary revealed its verdict, tweeting: “Goldilocks was found not guilty of having bad manners,” after their 3rd grade mock trial, which was attended by School Board Member Lynn Gray.
“We also have an opportunity for our 5th graders to go to the courthouse for a courthouse tour,” said Blossom.
Fifth grade students from across our district visited the George Edgecomb Courthouse by the busload throughout the week.
“Some attorneys will lead you around the courthouse,” explained Mike Moore, Public Information Officer of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit to students.
“We’re here at the courthouse today visiting the different judges and courtrooms,” said Edison Elementary 5th Grade Teacher Cicely Lewis.
“Extremely excited, because this is actually the first time seeing a court,” said Antonio, a 5th grade student at Edison Elementary.
Judge Mark Kiser spent an hour in the courtroom talking with students from Edison and Graham Elementary Schools.
“I learned about the different branches, I learned about how judges work and a trial goes,” said Kamarieya, a 5th grade student at Graham Elementary.
“I learned about the First Amendment and about free speech,” Antonio said.
“This gives them the opportunity to realize there’s another career choice they can choose – such as a lawyer or judge, as well as a bailiff in the courthouse,” Ms. Lewis said.
“Coming here during Law Week was a great opportunity, because I got to see how a courtroom looks, what I’ll be doing if I was to become a lawyer or judge,” said Kamarieya.
The judges also use the field trip for a real-life teachable moment: if students don’t follow the law, they could end up on the wrong side of the courtroom.
“I’m hoping that my students realize that in life, there are rules they have to follow, just like in school,” Ms. Lewis said.
Students seemed to absorb the message loud and clear.
“It’s extremely important to follow the rules, because if you get arrested, you can’t get any good jobs,” explained Antonio.
“It really influences me to do the right thing, because I want to be a great role model. I have little sisters. I want to teach them to do the right things, so that I won’t have to be here and be a lawyer and see them get in trouble,” Kamarieya said.
At the middle and high school levels, attorneys visited classrooms to talk about their careers in the legal profession, the Law Week theme: “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society,” or a topic related to a subject that students are studying in class.
Middle and high school students could also compete in the Law Week art contest based on the week’s theme.
“The committee narrows it down to the top 10, and then the attorneys vote while the art is on display in the courthouse during Law Week,” said Blossom.
There are cash prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd Place:
Middle School and High School
The winners will be honored at an upcoming School Board meeting and at the Hillsborough County Bar Association Membership Luncheon on May 8th.
“We believe the students have definitely benefitted from this experience,” said Blossom.
Law Week precedes Law Day, which is May 1st – a national initiative that includes an educational component for schools to cultivate a deeper understanding of the legal process.
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