FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Elementary school students were asked to make a decision about seatbelt laws in a mock trial at the Allen County Courthouse.
Fifth grade students from Huntertown Elementary School took different roles as a judge, attorneys and jury members in a special field trip focused on the judicial branch of government.
Those students have spent the year learning about U.S. History and the government. To bring learning to life, Huntertown teacher Jasmine Sloffer planned a trip to the courthouse for her students. It’s something she’s planned for the past three years.
“We thought it would be a neat way for the kids to see the judicial branch in action,” Sloffer said. “It’s a good way for them to look at how it’s difficult—most court decisions aren’t cut and dry—black and white—so [students] can see how [trials] can go both ways.”
Weeks leading up to the courthouse field trip, students got parts in the script and talked about its different themes, including jury selection and how people have a constitutional right to a jury trial.
Fifth grade student Lucius Hedges described the mock trial based on a real case from Texas.
“[A 17-year-old] was taking two girls home from school, and there was a dog, and he swerved to miss it. But the girl in the front seat—she had her seatbelt behind her back and she injured her arm. She said she ruined her basketball career,” he said.
In the case from Texas, the 17-year-old driver paid a $200 fine for not following the law, which states the driver is responsible for making sure all passengers are secured.
The mock trial asks the students to think critically about the case and answer the question “What’s the responsibility of the driver?”
Sloffer explains, “Is saying buckle up enough? Or do they have to actually see that people are buckled up properly.”
“We’ve had some really good discussions. Some kids felt adamantly one way, some kids wavered. It was a hard decision for them,” she said.