Homeschool tweens get their day in court
Twenty some 12- and 13-year-old students from Leon and Wakulla counties recently found themselves in court, and their parents and teachers couldn’t have been happier.
No, they weren’t on trial for truancy or unruly behavior; in fact, many of them served as attorneys and law enforcement officers. Classical Conversations’ Challenge B classes throughout the city and across the country held mock trials during April.
Mock trial has long been an extracurricular staple of prep schools—and now is a fixture in homeschool communities. Students participate in rehearsed courtroom trials to learn about the legal system in a competitive manner. Classical Conversations (CC), a homeschool organization, uses mock trial competition to teach skills in research, grammar, writing, rhetoric, public speaking, debate, and drama.
For the first time, local CC communities gathered for mock trial at Florida State University’s College of Law Advocacy Center courtrooms. Local attorneys served as judges and jurors.
This year’s CC mock trial was a fictional criminal trial charging a real estate developer with reckless homicide in the deaths of two people at a construction site following the collapse of a construction crane during a storm.
All the roles are still there: judge, prosecutor, defense attorney, defendant, witnesses and a bailiff. CC’s mock trial program uses local judges or attorneys to play the part of the trial judge, and other adults to play the jury. All the other roles are filled by Challenge B students. All the necessary documents: witness statements, an accident report, pertinent state laws, and evidence exhibits are all provided for the students.
These eighth-grade students have spent the entire spring semester experiencing all three stages of the classical model of education: grammar, dialectic, and rhetoric. They spent weeks learning the facts of the case and many more wrestling with those facts, trying to determine what facts were missing, finding errors in logic and building cases both for and against the defendant.