MONTEBELLO – Two high-level judges, including a California Supreme Court justice, and a television executive led students from La Merced Intermediate School in a mock trial Thursday as they “re-tried” a 1987 Supreme Court case regarding the free speech rights of students. The event was part of “Courtroom to Classroom,” a 5-year-old program by the Constitutional Rights Foundation to educate students not only about law careers but about how the law works in a democracy. “Justice” Katherine Inzunza, 13, said the experience made her think about things she had never considered, like how even free speech has restrictions. “I learned about what freedoms and rights we have and what we can and can’t do,” said Inzunza, who enthusiastically volunteered to read the students’ verdict. “It was so cool.” AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORECalifornia’s bungled $1 billion accounting system Using the 1987 U.S. Supreme Court case Hazelwood School District vs. Kuhlmeier, two eighth-grade classes had to argue whether a school principal had the right to remove articles from a school newspaper that dealt with teen pregnancy and divorce. After the students divided into three groups, California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno coached the “justices” on what types of questions to ask of the “attorneys.” Meanwhile, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge John Kronstadt helped students craft the district’s arguments, while Fox Broadcasting Co. executive Peter Liguori helped the “plaintiffs,” or in this case, the student journalists. In the end, the student justices ruled unanimously in favor of their counterparts at the newspaper. Afterward, Moreno revealed the real-life verdict: The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the school district. The court ruled a teacher has the right to determine what is appropriate content for a student newspaper. Moreno said he saw the program as a way to give young people hands-on exposure to the law and its practice. “It’s important for the legal profession to focus on the K-12 level, because we have to increase and broaden the aspirations of young people,” Moreno said. “Kids see a stereotype of judges and lawyers on TV that make caricatures of them. This gives them a realistic view of things.” The program has involved several thousand students throughout Los Angeles County and more than 100 local judges and attorneys since its inception, officials said. Sue Brennan, one of the classes’ eighth-grade teachers, said students always enjoy the exercise. “\ always have interesting results, especially for the girls,” Brennan said. “They often bring in women lawyers and judges who give them a great role model. You can read about \ all you want, but to act it out is a great learning experience.” [email protected] (562) 698-0955, Ext. 3029160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!
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