Independence High School students competed in the 2019-20 District Competition of the annual Ohio Mock Trial on January 17.
The Ohio Center for Law-Related Education (OCLRE) held the 37th annual mock trials with the objective of teaching students how to improve critical thinking, reading, writing, public speaking, and listening; develop an understanding and appreciation for the law and court procedures; understand constitutional rights and responsibilities; and reward students’ academic and intellectual achievements.
According to the OCLRE website, each year an attorney creates an original case involving a current constitutional issue that students find important. The students then work with an attorney or judge to prepare a case from both the plaintiff and defense perspective.
The competition was held in a real courtroom and was scored by a panel of lawyers and judges. In the Cuyahoga County district, 51 separate teams competed from 20 schools.
Three of the teams were comprised of Independence High School students Niko Artuso, Malcolm Campbell, Alex Christian, Jason Edwards, Sophia Tokich, Alex Harb, Kana Wisniewski, PJ Oschmann, Madeline Kitagawa, Thorin Chappel, Rachel de Haan, Sarah Elias, Joe Shumay, Jamie Musni, Avery Strychasz, Anna Zdolshek, Reece Bernhardt, Sydney Wilson, Aidan Zambito, Olivia Wright, Mia Bonfili, Ty Roberts, Kate Szymanski, Autumn Hawley, and Kosuke Hoshima.
This year’s case was about a senior high school student who organized a demonstration for gun rights off campus at a nearby park. The principal of the high school suspended the student and banned him from walking at graduation, claiming he caused a disruption at the school. The student sued the principal for deprivation of his First Amendment rights. Students on the plaintiff end had to prove that a deprivation of rights did occur.
The IHS students participated in six total trials and awards are given at each one. Rachel de Haan won two awards for “Best Attorney,” Autumn Hawley won “Best Witness” award, and Sydney Wilson also won a “Best Attorney” award.
“All students did fabulous. All of them learned a lot,” said Wayne Benos, IHS Mock Trial Advisor. The Independence Middle School Mock Trial team will be organizing soon to prepare for its trial in April.