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Students got real-world experience interacting with attorneys and judges, participating in mock courtroom trials and observing the legal system in action during Law Week 2018.

Law Week 2018 gives students hands-on experience within the legal arena

April 02, 2018

Lawyers - Courtrooms - Juries.  Gulty - Not guilty - I object! Legal trials make for great drama on TV, in the movies, and of course, in books. From the classic "Inherit the Wind" to "To Kill a Mockingbird" to Jack Nicholson and Tom Cruise in "A Few Good Men" to the hilarious "My Cousin Vinny" - judges, juries, and lawyers capture our attention and fuel our excitement when the good guy gets aquitted, the bad guy gets punished, and right triumphs over wrong.  Now, imagine over 1000 HCPS students getting a taste of a real courtroom, observing real lawyers in action, coming to understand courtroom etiquette, and learning about careers in the legal profession. What you get is Law Week!

Law Week was recognized in Hillsborough County on March 5 - 9, 2018. This year's theme was SEPARATION OF POWERS: FRAMEWORK FOR FREEDOM. Program partners Hillsborough County Bar Association - Young Lawyers Division (HCBA-YLD), provided an inspiring and thorough overview for students in elementary, middle and high school. Law Week was comprised of activities at selected schools that involved a mock trial and courthouse tour for elementary schools, and classroom speakers and an art contest for middle and high school students. The week recognized and built upon Law Day, which is a national initiative that includes an educational component for schools to cultivate a deeper understanding of the legal profession.  

  • Mock Trials were available to third and fourth grade level students. The trial this year was based on the popular nursery rhyme, Humpty Dumpty. This activity is designed to introduce the courtroom process by relating to evidence, proving guilt or innocence and to identifying law procedures in an actual mock trial setting. A team of two to three attorneys are matched with a school to guide this 60-minute experience.
  • Courthouse Tours field trips were hosted for fifth graders at the George Edgecomb Courthouse. Students arrived at the courthouse and were guided on a tour by an attorney who educated them about court procedures, trials and the legal system. For the second hour, students were escorted to a courtroom to learn about the teen court program and receive a brief message by a judge.
  • Classroom Speakers were also offered to middle and high schools. In classrooms across Hillsborough County, volunteers spoke to students about the separation of powers, careers in the law, and answered questions. 

According to Darlene B. Green, School Counselor at Edison Elementary School whose students visited the Courthouse, "The experience afforded Edison students the opportunity to visit a courtroom, judge's quarters and witness a "real-life" courtroom case while learning about court procedures, trails and the legal system. It also allowed them to talk to a judge in a nonthreatening environment." She went on to explain, "I am a school counselor and I am always emphasizing good character.  Hopefully this experience will help strengthen the value of good character and inspire Edison students to want to learn more about how the legal and political systems function, how the law affects them, and how they can affect it."

The Law Week Art Contest was an additional opportunity for middle and high school students to create artwork that portrays the current Law Week theme that is annually presented by the American Bar Association. This year's Law Week theme, "Separation of Powers: Framework for Freedom" provided the opportunity for students to explore how the U.S. Constitution designated a system of government with distinct, independent branches – legislative, executive, and judicial – and outlines how they interact. Congress, the President, and the Supreme Court share power and serve as a check on the powers of the others, providing a framework for freedom.

The winning artwork was on display at the courthouse during Law Week and will be showcased at the annual Law Day luncheon hosted by the Hillsborough County Bar Association on May 9, 2018. The winning art pieces were selected based on creativity and incorporation of the Law Day theme. Winners received cash prizes for each place in each grade level. The winners, their families, and their teachers were invited to attend the Law Day luncheon on Thursday, May 9, 2018 in downtown Tampa where they will be honored. Winners will also be recognized at the March 27 School Board Recognition meeting, and artwork will be on display at that time as well. 

In an article about Law Week for the HCBA publication "Lawyer", Committee member Melissa Foss wrote, "From artwork depicting Lady Justice with three children each signifying a branch of the government to a sculpture of a gavel with the handle breaking into three branches representing the division of power, the entries into the art contest were truly innovative and inspiring, showing real consideration and understanding of this year’s Law Week theme."

Winners of the Law Week Art Contest are listed below. 

MIDDLE SCHOOL LAW WEEK ART WINNERS:

1st Place, Emma Centrone, 8th grade, Wilson Middle School, Art Teacher: Brian Taylor, Principal: Colleen V.      2nd Place, Amara Woodward, 7th grade, Wilson Middle School, Art Teacher: Brian Taylor, Principal: Colleen V. Faucett                                                                                                                                                      3rd Place, Thomas “T.J.” Terry, 7th grade, Wilson Middle School, Art Teacher:  Brian Taylor, Principal: Colleen V. Faucett

HIGH SCHOOL LAW WEEK ART WINNERS: 

1st Place, Ross Stoneburner, 11th grade, Blake High School, Art Coordinator: Molly Dressel, Principal:  Jesse Salters                                                                                                                                                      2nd Place, Charlotte Yang, 11th grade, Plant City High School, Art Coordinator: Nicole Carpenter, Principal:  Susan Sullivan                                                                                                                                            3rd Place, Dakota Olson, 11th grade, Blake High School, Art Coordinator: Lenny Cabanero-Harvey, Principal: Jesse Salters

Learn more about HBCA and their community engagement events by visiting their website at www.hillsbar.com. For more information about Law Week in HCPS, contact Volunteer Services at (813) 231-1870.

 
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