Discovering Justice to Host Conversation and Q+A with Student Free Speech Advocate Mary Beth Tinker

In 1965, thirteen-year-old Mary Beth Tinker sued her school for allegedly infringing upon her right to free speech after she was suspended for protesting the Vietnam War. In 2021, students continue to stage protests and host walkouts to advocate for their rights, some facing disciplinary consequences for doing so. How do these historical moments connect, and what can we learn from examining them together?

In Discovering Justice’s Mock Appeal program this spring, middle school students growing up in a time of political tumult and protest learn about Tinker v. Des Moines, the landmark Supreme Court case that established and delineated students’ rights to free speech in schools. On May 6th, our students will have the opportunity to speak with Mary Beth Tinker, the plaintiff of that very case, in a virtual conversation and Q+A hosted by the Mock Appeal program.

It’s not every day that students get to speak directly with the individuals responsible for catalyzing groundbreaking achievements in the law, let alone to hear the reflections of a person who accomplished this feat at the same age as many of the Mock Appeal participants. However, this event will provide an opportunity for our student attorneys to do just that.

In this session, Tinker will share reflections with the students about her work participating in student activism, becoming a plaintiff in a national civil rights lawsuit, and subsequently charting a path as a national leader in efforts to empower students to advocate for their rights. Students will have the opportunity to ask Tinker their own questions about her experiences and how her advocacy can inform their understanding of the law and civic engagement. 

Hearing about Tinker’s activism will provide opportunities for students to incorporate the lessons from her efforts into their own work within the Mock Appeal program and beyond. “Students will get a real connection between what they have been learning about free speech in the program and real life,” said Luke Matys, Discovering Justice’s coordinator of the Mock Appeal Program. “When they meet and speak with Mary Beth, that historic change becomes more real and accessible.”

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Judges Visit Mock Appeal Sessions as Students Prepare for Mock Appeal in May

During the month of April, students in our Mock Appeal program had the opportunity to hone their appellate skills with the assistance of federal and state judges.  Through the power of video conferencing, judges visited our students across the state and shared insider tips on how to deliver a powerful appellate argument. 

This session also gave students the opportunity to ask a wide array of questions to the judges. Students asked about the most interesting case the judge had ever presided over, what steps they took to become a judge in the first place, how it feels to make decisions that affect people’s lives every day, the judge’s thoughts on current events like the Derek Chauvin trial, and a wide variety of other topics.  

All this preparation will come in handy on the evenings of Tuesday, May 25th, Wednesday, May 26th, and Thursday, May 27th from 5:00 to 6:30 when our student attorneys present and defend their arguments as our appellate panels pepper them with questions. 

Although it can be a daunting challenge, our student attorneys always rise to the occasion and thrive off of these questions. As veteran Mock Appeal panelist and Federal Judge David Barron had said: “If you really want to know what the value of the program is, all you have to do is see the students take a deep breath at the end of it.” We hope you can join us in supporting our students from across the state as they exhale with a deep pride in the work they have done. To register to be part of our audience, please sign up through this online form by Monday, May 24th. If you are an experienced attorney or a judge who would like to serve on one of Mock Appeal panels and judge the student appeals, contact the program coordinator, Luke Matys (lmatys@discoveringjustice.org), by Friday, May 7th.

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Discovering Justice’s 2021 Gala: Mentoring the Next Generation: Pathways to Civic Engagement

Each year Discovering Justice brings together its partners, students and supporters to celebrate the civic education programs the organization brings to students across the Commonwealth.

“Mentoring the Next Generation: Pathways to Civic Engagement”, Discovering Jutice’s 2021 Gala will be held on June 8 and highlight the importance of mentoring and the role that mentors have in the success of our programs. We can’t wait to see you at the virtual event and we encourage you to bring along a mentor or mentee from your career of life for only $25! 

We are excited to honor Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey as our 2021 Champion of Justice. Attorney General Healey is tireless in her work for justice here in Massachusetts and across the nation.

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Record Number of Teams Turn Out for Spring Mock Appeal Program

With a record number 22 teams participating, Discovering Justice’s Mock Appeal Program kicked off its spring program the week of March 8th. 

The Mock Appeal Program, formerly known as Stand Up for Your Rights, follows a similar structure to Discovering Justice’s Mock Trial Program. Through weekly 90-minute sessions with legal mentors over a course of 11 weeks, students transform into appellate attorneys and conclude the program by presenting oral arguments in front of a panel of federal and state judges and senior attorneys. 

This spring’s teams are from the communities of Boston, Brookline, Danvers, Framingham, Lawrence, Lowell, Rehoboth, Somerville, Waltham, and Worcester. The program is supported by more than 70 legal mentors, the most ever engaged in a Discovering Justice program.The legal mentors are  current and former members of private law firms, in-house lawyers, district attorneys, law students,  and public defenders.

If you are interested in learning more about our Mock Appeal or Mock Trial Program, their mentorship opportunities, or are interested in getting your school or firm involved next fall, please email Program Coordinator, Luke Matys, at lmatys@discoveringjustice.org

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

Mock Trial Program Concludes with 12 Virtual Trials

Presenting in front of federal and state judges, middle school students from Discovering Justice’s Mock Trial Program questioned witnesses and delivered detailed opening and closing arguments in cases concerning free speech and the First Amendment. The trials, held before juries of public officials, legal professionals, and local residents, culminated an 11-week program during which students met with legal mentors who taught the students the workings of the justice system, discussed the ideals of justice, and prepared them for their trials.

Last fall’s program was done virtually, a challenge for the more than 130 students and 60 legal mentors who participated in the program.. “It was a pleasure to watch teams grow a sense of comradery despite never meeting in person. This teamwork allowed them to build important civic knowledge and skills,” said Luke Matys, the coordinator of the Mock Trial Program.

More than 450 people attended the twelve trials which showcased students from middle schools in Boston, Lowell, Waltham, and Somerville. 

“Iti is so different from school. It’s a refreshing change from everything that is happening. . If you were ever wondering that you may want to be a lawyer — just try it.There will never be a more supportive group.”commented Abbie Roskind, an 8th grader from McDevitt Middle School in Waltham.

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