Fifth graders get their day in (mock) courtJul 8th, 2013 | By Terri Sercovich | Category: community
Students from Belle Chasse Middle School learned about the judicial system by staging a mock trial at the Louisiana Supreme Court, the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal and the Belle Chasse Courthouse as part of the L.E.A.D program.
The mock trial of fictional character Johnny Smith for possessing drugs on school grounds placed students in the shoes of the defendant, defense attorneys, prosecutors, witnesses, victim, bailiff, court reporter and jurors.
Presiding over the mock trials were retired 4th Circuit Court Judge Michael Kirby, 4th Circuit Court Judge Roland Belsome, 25th District Court Judges Kevin Conner and Michael Clement. The program started in 2000 and has been continued by District Attorney Charles Ballay.
The Legal Enrichment and Decision-making program helps students recognize and analyze potential consequences of the difficult decisions students face during adolescence and beyond. By focusing on peer pressure, responsibility, self-respect, self-control and self-esteem, Project L.E.A.D. gives students the tools necessary to avoid many of the pitfalls that often lead to delinquent conduct and criminal activity.
The L.E.A.D. curriculum includes fact patterns in which the characters approach various moral and legal crossroads. These are designed to illustrate how easy it can sometimes be to step over the line without even being aware of it. These fact patterns provide an interesting basis for class discussion. Students read aloud the parts in these scenarios, thus preparing for the mock trial which is the culmination of the L.E.A.D. lessons.
Project L.E.A.D. is taught to every 5th grader in our parish by one of the five assistant district attorneys in the D.A.’s Office: First Assistant Robert White, Joseph Roberts, Jerry Lobrano, Mary Touzet, and Ned McGowan. Topics include drinking and driving, boating safety, internet safety, four wheeling, dating violence, bullying, vandalism, truancy, and gun safety. Project LEAD is supported with funds obtained through the District Attorney’s Discretionary Fund.