By 2012 - Over 10,000 participating students the last nine years in 11 West Virginia counties!
WHO: 5th Grade Students - RESA 6
WHAT: The WALS Foundation Mock Trial PILOT Program
WHERE: In the classrooms during two back-to-back regular class periods
WHEN: 2012-2013 school year
WHY: Teachers fulfill the 5th grade Social Studies Content Standard and Objective requirement (Standard 2) 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.
The WALS Foundation Mock Trial Program
- Mock Trial Program Video - Short Overview and Long Version
- WV Department of Human Resources Substance Abuse Information
Two excellent websites for additional information about WV Prescription Drug Abuse Problems, Solutions and Tips
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 10,000 4th or 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, Brooke, Jackson, Wetzel (two years) Marshall (three years) and Kanawha (seven years). Several years ago we received additional grant funding for eighteen months from The Appalachian Regional Commission that led us to four of those counties, along with the distressed 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 the 2012/2013 school year, Mrs. Knutsen will train the RESA 6 area 5th grade teachers with sessions to be held in each county at the beginning of the school year. The session will explain the how-to manual, website resources, and web video. Weekly conference calls will also be available for any questions teachers may have throughout the school year every Wednesday morning from 9:00 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. by calling 1.866.545.0859. The conference code to be entered is 9604116277#.
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."
For more information of becoming a Contributing Member of WALS, click here.