GALLIA COUNTY — While the pursuit of education in law might not traditionally be what one would think of while being part of a high school English class, River Valley High School has turned it into a yearly highlight.
Mock Trial, as the annual school event has been called, is part of a statewide competition put on by the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education. According to competition materials, “Ohio Mock Trial provides an opportunity for high school students to participate in academic competition. The Ohio Mock Trail Competition is designed to foster a better understanding of the American democratic legal system and to encourage development of analytical and communication skills. In moving from the classroom to the courtroom, high school students add an important dimension to their learning experience in citizenship education.”
According to RVHS English teacher Aaron Walker, 45 students are participating in this year’s competition. Gallipolis City Solicitor Brynn Noe, Gallia Prosecutor Jason Holdren, Gallia Common Pleas Judge Margaret Evans, Gallia Juvenile and Probate Judge Thomas Moulton and Gallipolis Municipal Judge Eric Mulford took part in assisting with scrimmages, Monday evening, at the Gallia Courthouse and Gallipolis Municipal Court. Noe serves as the chief legal advisor for the students’ preparation to compete in a district competition, Jan. 18.
“Mock trial is the largest non-athletic competition in the state that includes close to 4,000 students,” said Walker. “We have 45 students who are involved in it and that is about half of the junior and senior class in our building. It’s part of our AP curriculum and the purpose of Mock Trial is to teach argumentation, to teach students about the court system and protocol, teach synthesis and those soft skills like public speaking and thinking on your feet. Those are all skills they can use going on to college.”
Walker said the competition has a committee of attorneys who put a case together each year and it usually centers around amendment issues. The fictional case RVHS students are arguing this year centers around Fourth Amendment privacy concerns and drone photography. Students pose as either witnesses, attorneys or other court-related persons in a fictional suppression of evidence hearing and make arguments in an attempt to persuade a judge whether video footage shot by a drone was illegally obtained to be utilized as evidence. If obtained illegally, it would not be able to be used in a fictional upcoming trial.
Walker said, this year, students had to read seven different US Supreme Court cases to study case precedent. Students typically start preparing for the coming competition in November.
“When we start this, it’s an intensive process,” said Walker. “It is hard and it is an elite academic competition in the state. Students will have to present their arguments in front of three judges or attorneys this Friday. We hope to advance to regional and then there is a state competition. The seniors are going to Portsmouth where they’ll compete and the juniors are going to Marietta.”
Mock Trial is part of RVHS’ advanced placement courses in English. Juniors take AP Literature and seniors take AP Language and Composition. Kaleigh Cox also leads students in Mock Trial preparations along with Walker.
“We’re being used as a model curriculum by the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education because we are embedding this as part of our curriculum and it teaches a bevy of standards,” said Walker.
After school practices are also held as part of Mock Trial.
“Students have put in countless hours and they have to sift through it all and they think on their feet,” said Walker. “It’s good for them. We’re really grateful for our volunteers who help us. We’re proud of our students and their work.”
“I have better public speaking skills which I can use in life and college,” said Mock Trial participant Chloe Gee.
“I’ve learned more about the law aspect of life and it’s opened up my viewpoint on court proceedings and how it affects our daily lives,” said participant Jerilyn Darst.
“I like how Mock Trial allows me to use my acting skills as well as teaches argumentation, synthesis and logic,” said student Julia Nutter.
“I like the competition and the opportunity to learn in a different way,” said student Jacob McGhee.
“I did it in school,” said Noe, RVHS Mock Trial’s legal advisor. “It wasn’t part of a curriculum then like they do, but I really loved it… I’m pleasantly surprised at how invested all the students are.”
Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.”