- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 10, 2002

Local high school students argued a fictional case yesterday in the third annual William H. Karchmer "We the Students" High School Moot Court Competition, based on the true-life experiences of D.C. students strip-searched last year while on a field trip to the city jail.
The case, Wright vs. Rogers, unfolded in lecture halls throughout American University's Washington College of Law in Northwest.
Students from 14 high schools, junior high schools and middle schools who participated in the "We the Students" constitutional literacy classes sponsored by the Marshall-Brennan Fellowship Program at the law school stepped to the podium to argue First and Fourth Amendment rights before a panel of tough judges and an audience of peers and supporters.
The moot high court was asked to consider the constitutionality of suspending a student who criticized a principal for allowing prison officials to strip-search students in an attempt to scare them straight.
In May, nine boys from Evans Middle School were strip-searched during a visit to the D.C. Jail. The incident caused a furor among students and parents alike.
The moot court case involves fictional class President Rob Rogers and his classmates, who were sent on a field trip to a local jail. The outing turned ugly when the students were strip-searched just like real prisoners. Rob wrote an editorial on his personal Web site and was suspended from school for five days by principal James Wright of fictional Faber High School. The principal said the Web site posed a threat to his safety and the language contained in the editorial incited violence.
Shanata Harvey, a junior at Springarn High School in Northeast, addressed the court energetically. Shanata, 16, represented Rob in his effort to prove his First Amendment, or free speech, rights had been violated. Shanata cited several cases upheld by the Supreme Court to steel her case.
"I believe the judges will rule on my behalf, simply because I gave more facts and answered their questions," Shanata said later.
Shanata said she may be law school-bound now because she finds her constitutional literacy class stimulating and thought provoking. Although she had to prepare her oral arguments for two days straight, Shanata didn't mind she's learned a lot, she said.
That's the whole point of the classes, said Professor Jamin B. Raskin, who teaches constitutional law at AU and is a director of the fellowship program.
"The society doesn't put a lot of emphasis on teaching people how to become citizens. You can be a lot of things in the new century without knowing the Constitution a TV watcher, a couch potato or a guest on the 'Jerry Springer Show' but if you want to be a citizen, you've got to know the document that kicks off the American experiment: the Constitution," Mr. Raskin said.
The fellowship program allows law students to visit area high schools to teach students about their constitutional rights. The curriculum is based on the book "We the Students: Supreme Court Cases for and about Students," written by Mr. Raskin.
The two-day moot court competition concludes today, but next weekend, more oral arguments will be heard during the National High School Moot Court competition with students participating from around the country.
For Kayeen Thomas, 18, a senior at Banneker High School in Northwest, the experience of presenting oral arguments before a panel of three poker-faced judges was an opportunity to get a real feel for the law. But Mr. Thomas, who lives in Southeast, had another round of oral arguments to make and a barrage of questions to answer from judges.
Eric Harding, a junior at Albert Einstein High School in Kensington, argued on behalf of Principal Wright, but he was a little discouraged after his presentation. The judges continued to reword their questions to get more specific answers.
In the spirit of jurisprudence, Eric said, "The judges were pretty fair, but I found their questions excessive."

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide