A record number 23 middle school teams presented their First Amendment cases, arguing the complicated line between hate speech and free speech before federal and state judges at Discovering Justice Mock Trial events..
In a five-day stretch, Discovering Justice hosted in-person events in seven cities across the Commonwealth with nearly 300 students.
“It was great to have students and legal mentors back in the courthouses,” said Mock Trial Program Manager Luke Matys. “We are so happy to bring everyone together to experience being in a courtroom and facing a real live judge. I know our students and volunteers missed having the mock trials in-person over the past year.”
Discovering Justice hosted in-person events at courthouses and in-partner schools in Boston, Springfield, Lowell, Worcester, New Bedford, Rehoboth, and Douglas. Discovering Justice also hosted two events virtually. Read more about the four schools from Springfield which participated in the U.S. Courthouse there.
Over the fall semester, middle school students wrestled with the case of Taylor Young. Taylor is a junior at the fictional Westbury (MA) High School. Taylor is the President of the school’s Planet Club, which provides an open space for students to learn and have discussions on environmental issues. They invited Blake del Valle to speak — a provocative journalist and author, who argues that it is morally wrong to eat meat and often publicly shames people who do
After Taylor began to advertise the event, concerns arose that del Valle’s speech would be harmful to Westbury, a community with many farms, and would violate the school’s commitment to teaching students to respect others. At the PTA’s request, Principal Knight asked Taylor to cancel the event, and when Taylor refused, they were suspended from school. Taylor sued the Westbury School District, arguing that their suspension is a violation of their right to free speech.
This semester, the program served 290 middle school students from 12 cities and towns, the most in Discovering Justice history. “We are so proud of our students for their perseverance and energy throughout this challenging semester,” said Matys. Highlighting the help of legal professionals across the Commonwealth Matys added, “The program wouldn’t be possible without our 104 volunteer legal mentors. The connection and relationships they form with our students make the program special.”
If you are a lawyer, law professor, legal professional, school leader, or teacher interested in signing up your firm, law school, bar association, school district, or middle school for the Mock Appeal Program this Spring, please contact Malia Brooks (firstname.lastname@example.org).