Sixth graders stage Titanic trial at Laurence School

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(L-R)  Sixth graders Eamon Griffith, Helen Carter and Jacqlyn Blatteis weren't joking about this mock trial.

(L-R) Sixth graders Eamon Griffith, Helen Carter and Jacqlyn Blatteis weren't joking about this mock trial.

For the eighteenth year running, sixth-graders at The Laurence School in Valley Glen  made some popular classic characters stand trial in the school’s Kids’  Court.  In years past, classics from Jack Sprat to Frank N Stein and Snow White have all had to defend their actions in court.

This time students mounted the highly anticipated case of “The County of Laurence vs. Captain E.J. Smith.”  After months of studying the legal system – including a field trip to the Van Nuys Courthouse, students stepped into character and courtroom set – to try Captain Smith for second degree murder. Although the trial was scripted, it was up to the well-informed jury, comprised of a group of randomly selected students ages 8 to 12, to decide Smith’s fate and determine his responsibility in the sinking of the Titanic and the deaths of the ship’s passengers.   After much deliberation, the trial ended in a hung jury, although 11 of the 12 jurors believed that the prosecution proved that Captain Smith acted recklessly and put the lives of the Titanic’s passengers at risk.

Laurence was among the first schools in the country to implement a mock trial program at the elementary school level.

The Laurence School sixth graders put Captain Smith on trial for second degree murder.

The Laurence School sixth graders put Captain Smith on trial for second degree murder.

In fact, mock trials are still not common for students in grade school.  But at Laurence it has become a rite of passage and a much anticipated privilege.

“This is a fun and creative way for students to learn about our legal system and to perfect their debate and critical thinking skills,” explains Lauren Wolke, the school’s Associate Head and a lawyer who created the program in 1991.

The Laurence School is a non-profit K-6 school located at 13639 Victory Blvd., Valley Glen, CA. (818) 782-4001  www.laurenceschool.com

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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