GALLIPOLIS — River Valley Mock Trial students are getting ready for competition.
Juniors and seniors from River Valley met in the Gallia County Courthouse Tuesday evening to rehearse for the upcoming trial.
The Mock Trial program is a part of the Advanced Placement (AP) English curriculum and involves numerous aspects that are related. According to Aaron Walker, advisor for the program, Mock Trial involves students learning to debate, speak publicly, perform, how to act in a courtroom, and a large amount of information about the legal system.
Local judges and attorneys help the program, including City Solicitor for Gallipolis Adam Salisbury, Judges Margaret Evans, Dean Evans, and Eric Mulford. Salisbury is the legal advisor for the program, helping teach the students how the court system works and its specific proceedings. Several judges have allowed the students to observe real cases and speak with them about the court system.
“Mock Trial has impacted my life greatly. I learned cooperating skills and how to step out of my comfort zone. I used to be the student that had lack of confidence and would not dare to speak in front of the class,” said Natosha Rankin, senior. “In the school year of 2016-2017, I was introduced to Mock Trial. I was given the role of bailiff. The bailiff introduces the court and the judges. I had to speak loudly and clearly, which is so out of my comfort zone. I enjoy Mock Trial even though it is stressful.”
Currently RVHS Mock Trial has 55 students, who will compete in teams of about ten in a mock trial court case and judged on their execution of their roles. Different students will take on the part of attorneys, defendants, witnesses, and others to play out their mock trial. The students run the trial and must follow the prescribed order of a court trial – opening statements, direct questioning, cross examination, objections, and closing statements.
The five RV teams will split into two groups on Friday to compete at two locations; three teams going to Portsmouth and two will travel north to Marietta.
“I and all of the professionals with whom I work are firm believers in placing students in situations that demand the highest level of thinking and performance that a particular student has to offer at that particular time in his or her life,” said Cindy Graham, advisor. “Mock Trial offers a place for any student to use skills and talents that include organization, management, creativity, analysis, synthesis, performance, public speaking, discernment of sourcing, and the power of bias.”
Walker explained the benefits of mock trial as rigorous and involved several disciplines.
“Students must not only learn the structure of a trial but also argumentation, analysis of legal documents and legal precedent, synthesizing information, working in teams, thinking on your feet, public speaking, civil discourse, etc,” said Walker. “Mock Trial is one of the most rigorous and academically challenging programs that students can take part in. It is so rewarding to see students be challenged, grow and learn through this process. These students have worked incredibly hard and we are so proud.”
The program was started at RVHS in 1998 by Graham. Over the years it has progressed and fits into the AP curriculum at River Valley, and has become a model for other Mock Trial programs in the state. The Ohio Center for Law Related Education chose River Valley to display how schools are using Mock Trial in the classroom as a part of the curriculum.