Our Constitutional Right to Due Process

7th Grade Social Studies centers around an essential question: How has the United States both lived up to and fallen short of its founding ideals. As students are now studying the U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights, they are beginning to learn ways that constitutional rights have been shaped and challenged over time. They are also learning about periods in our history when large groups of people were routinely denied their rights.

This year’s mock trial will – for the first time – focus on the denial of constitutional rights: to a fair trial and right to counsel (in the 5th and 6th Amendments). It was inspired by the work of Bryan Stevenson, whose book Just Mercy is a compelling account of the ways racial bias and flawed prosecutorial practices have impacted and continue to infect our justice system. The mock trial case won’t directly address his findings, but will afford an opportunity to discuss who in U.S. society tends to be disadvantaged in the legal system.

Each 7th grade student will take on the role of a lawyer or a witness, as they experience “Law School” from December 4 – 14th. I’ve heard from some parents who are willing to generously donate their time and talents to help coach these engaged and engaging future attorneys!!! If you know anyone who might want to join our efforts (which could just be one 2 and ½ hour session in the morning or afternoon), please contact me at wewbank@seattlegirlsschool.org!

One skill emphasized in the 7th grade curriculum is the ability to see multiple perspectives on a topic. Preparing a legal case necessitates really understanding both sides of the dispute. Research shows that perspective-taking exercises enhance young people’s tolerance of political views different from their own. Other goals of this experience are to increase students’ awareness of the importance of law in a democratic society and to provide a hands-on experience in a real courtroom setting with real life judges. Here they will apply their knowledge of law, society, and themselves. They’ll gain confidence and poise in a true “stand and deliver” performance.

Remember that this year’s trial will be December 14, 4 – 6:30 at the King County Courthouse (516 Third Avenue). Here, you’ll even have the opportunity to serve on the jury if you like!

Mock Trial CulminationSGS Yearbook page Mock Trial

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