Photo/Reba Saldanha  Discovering Justice Mock Trials December 10, 2019

Student Panel Event: Unpopular Speech in Schools

Students across Massachusetts will have the opportunity to hear an array of perspectives on the protection of student rights in schools at Discovering Justice’s Fall Student Panel on November 23rd.

Highlighting the virtual conversation is Mary Beth Tinker, the plaintiff in Tinker v. Des Moines, a landmark Supreme Court case that helped define student rights in schools; Kevin Dua, a teacher from Massachusetts encouraging student advocacy to affect social and racial justice change; and Mike Hiestand, Senior Legal Counsel at the Student Press Law Center, an organization focused on preserving student rights in schools under the First Amendment.

Moderated by Discovering Justice’s Courthouse Programs Manager, Henry Schunk, the virtual event will be an opportunity for students to learn more about their rights to free speech. The discussion will focus on the issue of “unpopular speech” and its place, or lack thereof, in schools. Recently, guest speaker events at MIT and the Middlesex School in Concord, MA have been cancelled because of the speaker’s political views.

The event complements Discovering Justice’s fall Mock Trial Program, in which students are learning about, and debating these same precedents and arguments in their case, centered around unpopular speech in a Massachusetts middle school.

If you or a student you know would like to attend the panel discussion, please register to attend the event here.

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Restorative Justice: Community Healing at the Federal Level

Featuring U.S. District Judge Leo T. Sorokin, Assistant U.S. Attorney James Herbert, Probation Officer Maria D’Addieco, Defense & Civil Rights Attorney Jessica Hedges, and Participants Tavon Robinson & Robyn Houston-Bean

On 8 December 2021, from 4:00-5:30 PM, Discovering Justice’s Executive Director, Matt Wilson, will facilitate a conversation on the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts’ restorative justice program, one of the only federal-level restorative justice programs in the United States. The event is part of Discovering Justice’s ongoing Courthouse Event Series.

Restorative justice is a concept based on the traditions and values of indigenous peoples. The practice brings individuals who have committed a crime together with victims, survivors, and community members affected by crime. The process is challenging and deeply personal, but the results can be life-changing for all participants. The program encourages offenders to come to a meaningful acceptance of responsibility by evoking a deep understanding of the many ways in which every crime causes harm. Victims, survivors, and community members are given the opportunity to engage with the justice system in impactful ways.

Panelists will discuss the impact restorative justice has had on their lives, the use of restorative justice at different levels and in different systems, and the expansion of restorative justice practices at the Massachusetts District Court beyond the RISE program. The panel is an opportunity to listen to personal stories of community healing, to learn about the prospects for expanding restorative justice practices, and to ask questions about these practices of responding to harm.

Sign up to join the event virtually or in person at the Moakley Courthouse. Please address all questions to Henry Schunk at

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Children Discovering Justice Program Expands to Boston and Springfield

Discovering Justice has partnered with district leaders and teachers in Boston and Springfield Public Schools to bring to their Grade K-2 classrooms engaging, complex, and age appropriate conversations on the topics of fairness, community, advocacy, justice, and democracy.

This past summer, Education Program Director Laura Brenner, worked with teachers in Springfield and Boston to build the curricula to introduce students to civic education learning at an early age.

  • For Kindergarten, students explore fairness, rules and justice in their community.
  • For First Grade students learn about voting, elections, and leadership.
  • For Second Grade students see examples of environmental justice and advocacy.

“We were excited to see the complex and age appropriate conversations our K2 students were engaging in!” —Emma Fialka-Feldman, Principal of Roger Clap Elementary

Check out this clip from teacher leader Tara Bordeau to hear her talk more about the curriculum and its impact on students:

Discovering Justice is working to adapt the curriculum for use in classrooms across the Commonwealth for the Fall of 2022.

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Photo/Reba Saldanha  Discovering Justice Stand Up For Your Rights May 21, 2019

Mock Trial Returns with Record Number of Teams

Discovering Justice kicked off its 20th season of its Mock Trial program in October, with middle school students from a record 24 teams from 12 cities and towns set to tackle the complex intricacies of the First Amendment.

With the expanding number of teams and cities involved in the program, Luke Matys, Discovering Jutice’s Mock Trial Program Manager, is excited to hold the culminating trials in courtrooms across the Commonwealth the week of December 13th. “We are partnering with more teams and in more places than ever before,” Matys said. “The week of Mock Trials will be a wonderful celebration of our student attorneys’ work and a great opportunity for us as a community to support them.”

The Mock Trial program, which runs for 10 weeks, pairs middle school students and legal mentors for weekly sessions to prepare a case before a judge and a jury. The case for this year addresses the contemporary issue of “unpopular speech” on a school campus and how it tests the guarantees of free speech in the First Amendment.

“I love Discovering Justice! I would encourage all lawyers to try it out for a semester and I would also encourage all students that can to sign up,” said Meg Ziegler, a legal mentor from Choate Hall & Stewart, who is working this fall with the students at the Douglas Middle School in Douglas, MA.

Mary Kay Brown, a longtime mock trial partner and Director of Partnerships for the John J. Duggan Academy in Springfield, is also looking forward to giving another group of students the Discovering Justice experience. “It’s just a whole other layer of career awareness,” she said. “We’ve had just so many situations where kids walked away and they just said ‘yeah, this is what I want to do.’”

Discovering Justice will be hosting Mock Trial events in Lowell and Springfield on Tuesday, December 14th, in Boston on Wednesday, December 15th, and in Worcester and New Bedford on Thursday, December 16th. If you are interested in volunteering to hear our students try their cases as a juror, contact Discovering Justice’s Outreach & Recruitment Associate, Malia Brooks at

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Remembering Nonnie Burnes: Champion of Justice

On August 14th, 2021 we lost a deeply respected and much beloved member of the Discovering Justice community, founding board member, Nonnie Burnes.

Nonnie was invited to join Discovering Justice as a founding board member in December of 2001 and was in attendance at the first board meeting on January 23, 2002. Nonnie remained an active, generous, and passionate member of the board through 2015, serving as Vice Chair from 2012 to 2014. In 2010, Nonnie was the recipient of the Discovering Justice Champion of Democracy award which recognized her bold vision and tenacity as she sought to bring high quality civic education to young students in Boston classrooms and across the Commonwealth.

Nonnie’s contributions to Discovering Justice and our community of students, educators, and volunteers were significant and endured for nearly twenty years. Together, with her husband Rick, Nonnie generously supported the development and delivery of impactful civics programs for our youngest learners. Her vision became the reality for thousands of young students and their educators in classrooms across the Commonwealth.

Members of the Discovering Justice community who worked alongside Nonnie during her tenure as a Trustee reflected on their time together. Click here to view the full article.

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Kayla Nordman

Kayla Nordman believes strongly in expanding access to comprehensive civic education to provide the next generation with the resources they need to uphold and expand upon the values of American democracy and create a more equitable future. Before joining Discovering Justice, she worked as a Legislative Intern at the Massachusetts State House and as a Program Manager for the Massachusetts Center for Civic Education. Kayla graduated from Suffolk University with a BA in International Relations.