Lisa W. Romano
May it please the court. In this trial, the plaintiffs proved two points. One, that Andy's teasing wasn't just innocent fun. ... Imagine you find out that your child is suffering from psychological abuse, and the school district you pay taxes to is aware of it, and did nothing, and the faculty members joined in ridiculing your child, along with the tormenter. —Student prosecutor closing statement
Linden Hall students, outfitted in business attire instead of their usual kilts and khakis, recently gathered in the school's formal board room as part of the annual eighth grade mock trial unit. One group debated the above case about whether a school district should be held responsible for alleged cyberbullying that occurred outside of school.
The other argued a consumer case against a coffee company claiming that the company was negligent in serving coffee at too high a temperature so that it burned a customer. The eighth graders used high-school level mock trial materials for their research.
Teachers in civics and English classes led the preparation and trial as a cross-curricular project, highlighting skills and aspects that pertained to their specific subjects. Students were assessed on their demonstration of skills in in both areas, including: usingpersuasive, formal language; defending assertions with evidence; public speaking; team work; leadership; questioning; improvisation; critical thinking; and offering constructive feedback.
"All the students demonstrated skill in making and proving arguments as well as improvisation and extemporaneous speaking," said Dr. Jack Dwiggins, the eighth graders' civics teacher. "They can all be proud of themselves for taking on such an advanced project."
Students worked in teams to build their cases, and during the trials, the class not arguing the case acted as jurors
for the other class. When the jurors announced their verdicts, they also gave feedback to the other team. Linden Hall sixth graders were able to watch the trials and hold their own jury deliberation in their history class.
English Department Chair Mara Pritchard noted that the mock trial project followed the students' reading of To Kill a Mockingbird in her class.
"Through our reading of To Kill a Mockingbird, students had an understanding of the challenges faced by witnesses and attorneys. They were also aware of how important it is for attorneys and witnesses to appeal to jurors," said Ms. Pritchard. "Students enjoyed the opportunity to argue their own trials and act as jurors for one another. Jury deliberations were exciting. I could tell that each juror paid careful attention to the trial and had strong opinions about which team should win."