Contributed by Grade 10 Humanities Teacher Audrey Schewe
Grade 10 Humanities students in Dr. Schewe and Mrs. Wernstrom’s class, “That’s Unconstitutional…Or Is It?” like to argue. In fact, rumor has it that they carry their pocket Constitutions with them at all times so they are always ready to weigh in on landmark Supreme Court cases and important Constitutional questions dotting the headlines. Whether they are debating the constitutionality of the use of security camera recognition software, or determining if the Supreme Court has original or appellate jurisdiction to hear a case, these students are demonstrating their ability to express their ideas skillfully and engage as global citizens.
Through simulations of Supreme Court cases, students have learned to conduct case analyses, then use evidence to develop reasoned arguments. Questions such as: “Is an anonymous tip that a person is carrying a gun enough to justify a police officer stopping and frisking a person?” or, “Is wearing an “I Heart Boobies” bracelet protected free speech in schools?” have challenged students to use previous Supreme Court decisions and interpret the Constitution to exact justice.
Last Friday, the students dressed up in their professional best to head down to the Georgia Supreme Court chambers to debate the case of the “school search.” The Constitutional question on which they had to decide: Does the school’s search of a student’s backpack violate the student’s Fourth Amendment rights?
After meeting with Georgia Supreme Court justice Sarah Hawkins Warren, the student lawyers for the appellant and the appellee prepared their oral arguments while the justices disappeared into the judges’ chambers to don their official robes. Once the deputy clerk and clerks were in place, the justices entered the chambers and took their seats. Lawyers for the appellant and appellee made their cases while the justices challenged them with clarifying questions.
In the end, the student justices ruled unanimously in favor of the school’s right to search the backpack, although it was clear to their teachers that both sides made a strong case for having learned to interpret the Constitution and to use evidence to make a persuasive argument. “All rise!” and applaud our students for a “constitutional” job well done!