- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 17, 2002

Local high school students argued a fictional case yesterday in the fourth annual William H. Karchmer "We the Students" Moot Court Competition at the American University's Washington College of Law in Northwest.
The case, "Gray v. the Board of Education of Arlandria Township," was based on a fictional equal-protection challenge by homosexual high school students suspended from school for 10 days for inappropriate behavior at the school-sponsored prom. Heterosexual students who engaged in the same behavior were not disciplined.
The student participants came from seven high schools and charter schools in the District and Maryland. In preparation for the competition, they participated in "We the Students" constitutional literacy classes, sponsored by the Marshall-Brennan Fellowship Program at the American University Washington College of Law.
Yesterday they stood at podiums in different classrooms and made strong cases using the 14th Amendment's equal protection clause. The enthusiastic group argued before a panel of tough, poker-faced judges, many of whom were practicing lawyers, law students and, of course, their peers.
Tiara Young, a junior at Maya Angelou Charter School in Northwest, represented Tameika Gray and Louisa Sanchez, the two young ladies who were suspended from school for inappropriate behavior at the prom. Tiara, 17, said she felt confident making her case. She enjoys debating and presenting logical arguments, she said.
"I think I did great, but the judges for Round Two were intimidating. But, I was still able to state my case confidently," Tiara said.
She insisted on representing the two female students, who she felt were not treated fairly.
"I felt very strongly about this because no one should knock a person for being homosexual although, they did violate the rules. But there was no reason why they should have been punished for 10 days if the other students were not punished. There should be equal enforcement of the rules," Tiara said.
William Shellington, a junior at Kamit Institute for Magnificent Achievers (KIMA) in Northwest, stepped to the podium on behalf of the two young women. The 16-year-old future lawyer said he received rave reviews from the judges after his rounds were completed.
"I received a lot of compliments from the judges [for citing case law]. In one of my arguments, I said that the school cannot discriminate just because the community shows moral disapproval of homosexuality. I compared it to "Lofton v. Kearney" where a same-sex couple were trying to adopt a child in Florida," he said.
"But the state said they could not do it. The couple appealed the case to the Supreme Court, which ruled that the enforcing action was based on moral disapproval," he said.
In William's opinion, the school discriminated based on status more than on the young ladies' conduct.
"If the school suspended them why not suspend the heterosexuals based on their [inappropriate] conduct?" he asked.
The dapper student, sporting a charcoal gray suit, applauded the "We the Students" program. He said the moot court experience offered him the opportunity to hone his public speaking skills, do research and cite case law.
Christopher Caple, 27, a second-year student at the law school, volunteered to serve as a judge for the moot court competitions. Mr. Caple, of Northwest, said he was impressed.
"They're doing very well. The students I've judged attend Ballou STAY High School and Cardozo High School. They came in at the last minute because they just found out about the competition and they've done wonderfully," Mr. Caple said.
He credits their teachers from the Marshall-Brennan Fellowship Program for preparing them well for the competition. Most importantly, he credits the students themselves for their ability to adapt and quickly answer hypothetical questions posed by the judges.
"They were able to do just what a good trial lawyer would do," he said with a smile.


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