2004-06-17 / Front Page
Mock arrest and trial help students learn
Mock arrest and trial
help students learn
BY TARA PETERSEN
MILLTOWN — Students looked on as their teacher was pulled over by police, arrested and brought to trial — all in the name of education.
Eight-grade students in Geralyn Gerhart’s Youth and Government class at Joyce Kilmer School planned out a mock arrest and trial over the last few months with help from language arts teacher Suzanne LaBar, who played along in character during the event that took place Tuesday afternoon.
The students plotted out a situation where LaBar would be pulled over for speeding and police would find "stolen" merchandise in her car.
Student David Lynch "arrested" LaBar for theft, while a real police officer, Milltown Lt. Douglas Cole, advised him. LaBar was brought into the police precinct, where 14-year-old Nick Torre, acting as chief of police, read LaBar her rights and gathered more evidence.
To make things more interesting, LaBar even attempted escape and accused the fake officers of harassment.
LaBar’s lawyers, Sean McGowan and Brian Alosco, both 13, planned their defense in one room, while Prosecutor Sean Murray, 13, built his case with police evidence.
Then it was time for a mock trial, with 14-year-old judge Patrick O’Dwyer presiding, and Christine Orvetz, 14, assisting as the court administrator.
Milltown real municipal judge Karl Meyertons advised O’Dwyer.
Lawyers called witnesses for questioning.
Prosecutor Murray questioned Lynch, who claimed someone fitting LaBar’s description had shoplifted makeup from Target.
The defense cross-examined. McGowan questioned the manner in which police discovered the makeup and made a motion that the evidence be thrown out.
"How do you know they are stolen?" McGowan said.
In the end, Judge O’Dwyer felt the evidence was too strong and found LaBar’s character guilty of theft, "sentencing" her to six months in prison.
McGowan and O’Dwyer said they really enjoyed planning out the scenario, and that they learned how to be professional and about the terminology used.
"I learned what is sustained, and what is overruled," O’Dwyer said.
Gerhart said that the event, Court Night, is part of the curriculum. All eighth-graders must attend Board of Education and Borough Council meetings and be placed on a committee or take part in the mock set-ups.
In March, students ran the school board meeting with Brittany Yockel acting as superintendent and Elizabeth O’Brien as the board president.
"They had a standing ovation," Gerhart said.
In May, students worked side by side with Mayor Gloria Bradford and council members to run a meeting.
Christopher John Mooney acted as mayor.
Since the meetings are televised on the local channel, it received the widest audience of all the mock situations.
Gerhart said the students learn a great deal when they act out scenarios rather than simply read about them.
"They really see what happens from beginning to end," Gerhart said.