Mock Trial Program Teacher Instruction Manual

Everything you need for the mock trial including "Important Messages," "5th Grade Next Generation Objectives and Standards," and the "5th Grade Teacher's Manual."

Over 11,500 participating students the last nine years in 12 West Virginia counties!

WHO: 5th Grade Students throughout West Virginia
WHAT: The WALS Foundation Mock Trial Program
WHERE: In the classrooms during two back-to-back regular class periods
WHEN: 2013-2014 school year
WHY: Teachers fulfill the 5th grade Next Generation Social Studies Content Standard and Objective requirement from the WV Department of Education. Students in the 5th grade through their role-playing in a courtroom setting bring the American Justice System to life as they learn about the dangers of abusing prescription drugs.

Recognizing that all children are at-risk for juvenile delinquency behavior, The WALS (Wheeling Academy of Law and Science) Foundation has designed a mock trial project that brings the system of American justice to life as it addresses the subject of substance abuse, most recently prescription drug abuse. The goal of the Foundation is to demonstrate the objective of justice and workings of our civil and criminal justice system by allowing students to act out the roles of lawyers, witnesses, jurors and more, based on factual case scenarios (scripts) prepared by the Foundation. The scripts portray the unfortunate circumstances that can occur when the choice is made to abuse drugs, leading right up to a day in court where the defendant’s future depends on the decision of 12 strangers who have been chosen to decide his/her fate.

Over 11,500 4th/5th and 8th grade students have participated in the project thus far in these two-day age-appropriate scripted mock trials in public school classrooms in Ohio County, West Virginia, as well as, after-school and summer programs, private and parochial classes, and those homeschooled. Funding has been provided each year by the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources. Our two day outreach extended to ten other counties including Tyler, Hancock, Brooke, Jackson, Wetzel (two years) Marshall (three years) and Kanawha (seven years). Several years ago we received additional grant funding from The Appalachian Regional Commission that led us to four of those counties, along with the counties of Braxton, Clay, Barbour and McDowell.

"Prescription drug abuse came on the scene several years ago and our scripts reflected this issue as it was emerging. It has become a huge problem in epidemic porportions among our youth today," says Barbara Knutsen, Executive Director of the WALS Foundation. "The goal of this project is to educate students about the dangers of prescription drug abuse issues through this innovative, creative and active in the demonstration process."

All new scripts were written in 2009. The case is a criminal case involving teens taking someone else's prescription drugs, crashing a car and one person dying in the accident. The other teens involved find themselves being charged with possession, distribution and involuntary manslaughter. Unfortunately, it is a real life scenario. All students participate - they are the ones that decide the fate of these defendants.

For nine years, the trial was a two-day classroom process. Teachers received a packet in advance with general information about the project, a role list for students, a mock-up on how to move the class around to look like a courtroom and vocabulary words relating to the scripts. On the first day, Mrs. Knutsen presented the pre-trial discussion, talked about the prescription drug problem and its negative effects in West Virginia, passed out information explaining the steps in a trial and showed a quick rehearsal of the script to make the students comfortable with where they were to sit/stand for each part.

On the second day, Mrs. Knutsen brought a volunteer lawyer from the area to play the role of "Judge", a suitcase full of props such as scarves/ties for lawyers, a court reporting machine, a gavel and robe for the Judge, name tags for all jurors, any evidence applicable and other appropriate props that made it fun for the students. After completion of the trial, students had a brief question and answer series with the Judge, and all students were given the popular gavel pencils that read, "I participated in a mock trial to KNOCK OUT DRUGS!"

In 2012/13, Mrs. Knnutsen created a teacher's manual and trained the 5th grade teachers in the WV RESA 6 areas as part of the pilot program to expand.

Currently in 2013/14 all 20,000+ students have been invited to participate in the mock trial program. The manual and attachments are now on the website along with a "How To" DVD, overview videos and substance abuse resources so that all West Virginia teachers can take advantage of this program year after year as they complete the Next Generation Standard and Objective (SS. PD.5.C) that states 5th grade students will "assume a role in a mock trial."

The popular gavel pencils that were used since the beginning of the program will be replaced by paper gavel bracelets stating, "I participated in a mock trial as a ______ to KNOCK OUT DRUGS!" Teachers simply have to print out, cut out and hand out these cool design bracelets for all participating students upon completion of their mock trial.

For more information, please call Barbara Knutsen at 304.232.2576 or via email.

"If those who believe in the Justice System do not educate the public, those who do not will." --Patrick S. Cassidy, Founder and President The WALS Foundation

For more information of becoming a Contributing Member of WALS, click here.