Category: News

Courthouse Tours Help Students and Community Members Explore the Moakley

With the COVID pandemic waning, Discovering Justice is excited to welcome more community members back to the Moakley Courthouse. Since July, more than 200 people have visited for tours to hear about the architecture, art, and history of the building.

In the hour-long tours, guides explore major themes that examine the tensions inherent in the architecture and workings of the Courthouse such as: transparency vs. security, historical precedence vs. current society, and tradition vs. creativity. In addition, tour guides urge visitors to explore the question, “What is justice and how can I use my voice to advocate for it?”

“Having a civic space like the Moakley is foundational to a democracy and our tours provide the community members with the opportunity to dive deep into the history and workings of the justice system,” said Kiara Batista, Discovering Justice Courthouse Programs Associate.

Hannah Weiser, an adjunct professor at Babson College who brought in a group of business school students to the Moakley remarked, “The court visit provided an opportunity to engage with the law in a unique manner that is unparalleled to the classroom. The students and faculty found the experience to be extremely valuable.”

With more interest in tours, Discovering Justice is adding more volunteer docents to conduct tours. “We want to expand our capacity to give tours and diversify our pool from college students to retirees and to people of all backgrounds,” said Batista.

With the help of our growing set of docents, the organization looks forward to bringing in more than 1,000 adults and students of all ages to the courthouse this year for tours. To schedule a tour for you or your group, fill out this form or email kbatista@discoveringjustice.org.

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Welcome New Staff to Discovering Justice

With Discovering Justice Programs serving more participants than ever, the organization continues to grow its staff to meet this increasing demand. In September, Discovering Justice welcomed three new individuals to the team – new staff member, Hassan Chehab and two new fellows, Kate Uluatam and Megan Schneider.

Hassan Chehab – Development and Administrative Associate

Hassan graduated from UMass-Boston with a Masters in International Relations degree. He has a background in data management and social research.

Having experience in Worcester Public Schools administration and healthcare staffing data management, he went on to do work researching COVID-19 vaccine accessibility for countries in the Middle East, as well as building a body of research for energy infrastructure reform in Massachusetts.

“I joined Discovering Justice because programs that educate youth about the justice system are not only inherently useful and helpful, it is so desperately needed.”

As the new Development and Administrative Associate, Hassan will work to support the Discovering Justice team by managing and improving systems and the organization’s operations.

When Hassan is out of the office, he enjoys playing sports, watching movies, and playing board games with friends.

Megan Schneider – Communications Fellow

Megan is a recent graduate from Saint Michael’s College in Vermont where she received her degree in Media Studies, Journalism, and Digital Arts with a minor in Gender Studies.

During her time at school she worked as the photographer at the campus marketing department, was president of the Feminist Club, and was a coordinator for the Center for Women and Gender on campus.

With her passion for social justice and love for telling stories through visual media, she is excited to help broadcast the stories and impacts of Discovering Justice’s programs.

“I’m excited to work with a wonderful staff and learn from them. Combining my skills in visual media with social justice is something I’ve always hoped to be able to do after graduation.”

As the Communications Fellow, Megan will work with Malia Brooks, Discovering Justice’s Outreach and Recruitment Senior Associate, to utilize the organization’s website, social media platforms, and access to media outlets to help broadcast the stories and impacts of Discovering Justice’s programs.

In her free time, Megan likes to do photography, ski, and spend time with friends and family.

Kate Uluatam – Mock Trial Fellow

Kate is currently a junior at Northeastern University pursuing a degree in psychology and criminal justice.

She has always been interested in the justice system and the pursuit of her degree has only deepened this interest.

Her passions lie in equitable education and opportunity. Kate is excited to work with students, teachers, and attorneys to make the Mock Trial Program a success.

“I am thrilled to be a part of Discovering Justice’s team this fall. Being able to invest in my passions for justice and education while learning about nonprofits and the legal system, is a one-of-a-kind experience which I am beyond excited about.”

As the Mock Trial Fellow, Kate will work with Luke Matys, the organization’s Mock Trial, Mock Appeal, and Topics Program Manager, to run the fall Mock Trial Program. She is looking forward to gaining experience working with volunteers and participants, as well as the Discovering Justice team.

When she’s not working with students, teachers, and attorneys to make the Mock Trial Program a success, Kate loves to weight lift and try new foods.

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Trial By Jury: Does the American Jury System Bring Us Justice?

Jury trials are rare, yet they are often thought of as the backbone of the nation’s justice system. In addition, they are one of the most critical and meaningful ways for the public to engage in the American judicial system.

On November 14th, in conjunction with the Moakley Courthouse, Discovering Justice will be hosting Trial By Jury: Does the American Jury System Bring Us Justice?

The panel, moderated by Discovering Justice Executive Director Matt Wilson will highlight multiple perspectives on the topic, including the strengths and challenges of the nation’s jury system. Panelists will include:

  • Honorable William G. Young, Federal District Court Judge,
  • Dehlia Umunna, Clinical Professor of Law at Harvard Law School (HLS), and the Faculty Deputy Director of the law school’s Criminal Justice Institute (CJI)
  • Other speakers will be added to the panel

Discovering Justice’s Courthouse Events create civic spaces to discuss current world issues. This panel will be the first of three events over the year. Last year the collaboration between Discovering Justice and the District Court hosted timely discussions on Media and the Courts during COVID and Beyond, Restorative Justice, and the Art of Courtroom Illustrations.

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Discovering Justice Offers Unique Civic Education Curriculum to Grade K-2 Students

This fall, the Boston, Cambridge, and Springfield Public Schools will be rolling out the new Children Discovering Justice civics curriculum across their districts to help elementary students learn about the complex issues of justice and fairness.

The curriculum guides civic-minded students and teachers through lessons of culturally responsive and interactive activities. For example, the “Needs Before Wants” activity provides opportunities for students to identify equitable solutions to serve the needs of others in various picture scenarios.

Each unit focuses on the topic of justice through a grade level focus. Kindergarten focuses on rules and community, first graders explore voting and leadership, and second graders learn about justice and the environment.

“I observed a group of kindergarten students that were so concerned and passionate about establishing fair classroom rules,” said Victoria Suri, Discovering Justice’s K-5 Curriculum Developer. “These students are building a strong foundation to apply this learning to their broader community and world.”

Over the past year, Discovering Justice staff worked with educators across the Commonwealth to pilot the program. Feedback from educators strengthened the curriculum ensuring that it met the needs of districts and the students. Learn more and explore the curriculum by visiting the organization’s website.

Discovering Justice Education Staff also offers professional learning and development sessions to prepare educators to discuss the issues of justice and fairness with the Commonwealth’s youngest learners. These trainings inform educators on the tools and resources available in the curriculum and provide best practices for leading civil discourse in the classroom.

Discovering Justice has also begun working with teachers to pilot the Grade 3 curriculum which will focus on indigenous justice. Guest speakers will share their perspectives through video interviews for students to understand indigenous justice movements that continue today. Grade 4 curriculum focused on immigration and Grade 5 based on freedom of speech and civil rights will follow.

The K-2 curriculum is “open source” and is free for all Massachusetts school districts to use. Staff is in discussion with representatives from Brookline, Lexington, Norwood, Burlington, and Plymouth Public Schools to discuss implementation of the curriculum in the coming year.

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Mock Appeal June 1 2022.  Photo/Reba Saldanha

Springfield and Providence Highlight Mock Trial Fall Program with a Record Number of Teams

Discovering Justice kicked off its 21st season of its Mock Trial Program this week with a record 30 teams of middle schoolers set to tackle the complex intricacies of the Fourth Amendment.

This record number of teams from 13 cities and towns are headlined by Discovering Justice’s expanding partnership with Springfield Public Schools and Providence Public Schools, the organization’s first ever out-of-state team from Rhode Island.

“We are partnering with more teams and in more places than ever before,” explained Luke Matys, Discovering Justice’s Mock Trial Program Manager. “This fall’s highlight is our growing participation in Springfield and our new partnership in Providence.”

This year’s case is based on the 1985 Supreme Court Case, New Jersey v. TLO, which set the precedent for students’ Fourth Amendment Rights (search and seizure) in public schools. The case involves a school principal finding more than they expected when searching a suspected student bully’s cell phone.

“It is exciting to work with new school systems and legal mentors and expand our impact to more than 400 middle school students this fall,” said Matys. “With more than 120 volunteer legal mentors and 30 teacher coordinators, we have a talented team to help students learn about the workings of the judicial process and prepare their cases for trial in December. ”

Last year, Discovering Justice was written into Springfield Public School’s budget to bring the organization’s programming, including Mock Trial and Mock Appeal, to more Springfield students than previous years. This fall, four middle schools will be running the Mock Trial Program in Springfield: Duggan Academy, Springfield Conservatory of the Arts, STEM Middle Academy, and Springfield Renaissance School. We are partnering with legal professionals from Springfield including: MassMutual, CPCS Youth Advocacy Division Massachusetts Attorney General’s Office, Bulkley Richardson, the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department, and Connor & Morneau, LLP.

Adding to the record number of teams, the organization is running its first ever mock trial team from Rhode Island. The Providence-based group partners Nathan Bishop Middle School with the US Attorney’s Office in Rhode Island.

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Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Offers Civics Project Planning Workshops

Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Offers Civics Project Planning Workshops

Civics Project Planning Workshop: Grade 8

This 3-hour workshop will run September 21 and 22, from 3:30 – 5:00 p.m. Participants should plan to attend both days. Register here: Workshop Registration. Email Kathryn Gabriele, kathryn.r.gabriele@mass.gov, with any questions.

This interactive workshop will be co-facilitated by Massachusetts Civics Fellows, teachers experienced in planning and implementing the student-led civics projects. In this workshop, participants will examine resources and tools to draw on in their work, look and engage with several project examples, and have an opportunity to begin collaboratively planning for implementation in their local context. This workshop will focus on project planning and implementation in grade 8 and is for educators who are both new to the projects and those who have experience with them.

Civics Project Planning Workshop: High School

This 3-hour workshop will run September 28 and 29, from 3:30 – 5:00 p.m. Participants should plan to attend both days. Register here: Workshop Registration. Email Kathryn Gabriele, kathryn.r.gabriele@mass.gov, with any questions.

This interactive workshop will be co-facilitated by Massachusetts Civics Fellows, teachers experienced in planning and implementing the student-led civics projects. In this workshop, participants will examine resources and tools to draw on in their work, look and engage with several project examples, and have an opportunity to begin collaboratively planning for implementation in their local context. This workshop will focus on project planning and implementation at the high school level and is for educators who are both new to the projects and those who have experience with them.

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