Callanan, Simpson College Students Partner in Mock Trial Exercise
Sixth graders at Callanan Middle School held a mock trial in an alleged case of bullying that culminated a collaboration between the school and Simpson College.
Criminal Justice majors at Simpson had been prepping their Callanan apprentices for six weeks to play various roles in the proceeding. After the remains of lunchtime were swept away the cafeteria was hastily converted into a courtroom and kids became prosecutors, defense attorneys, alleged victims, defendants, witnesses and jurors. The presiding judge was Carolyn Dallinger, a Simpson professor who teaches Juvenile and Family Law. Dallinger has been partnering with DMPS for six years on various service learning programs. This year she approached Callanan’s Behavior Strategist, Joe Ortega, about the bullying mock trial project and he was eager to get involved. It coincides with, but is separate from, a $1,000 grant toward anti-bullying efforts that Callanan won earlier this year thanks to parent Emily Shay’s entry in a contest sponsored by Younkers in association with STOMP Out Bullying.
The trial centered on the fictional case of People vs. Dixon. One high school student accuses another of a pattern of harassment that results in an incident where the accuser suffers a broken arm, allegedly at the hands of the accused. Witnesses are heard. The prosecution builds a seemingly strong case but the defense methodically picks it apart as circumstantial.
Complicating matters, the realities of middle school got caught in the gears of justice when the final bell sounded and the intercom started calling students to show choir and basketball games. Attrition ravaged the jury box and by the time final arguments were rendered there were only five jurors left. Judge Dallinger put the case in their hands and they filed around the corner to deliberate in the hallway. But they needn’t have left the room. Faster than you can say, “The prosecution objects!” they were back with a verdict of not guilty.
Swifter justice would be hard to come by.
A quick poll of the jurors as they rapidly morphed back into 6th graders revealed that they agreed the defendant was probably a bully but the case against him hadn’t been proven beyond reasonable doubt.
The case isn’t over yet. Judge Dallinger and Mr. Ortega scheduled a pizza and ice cream party in two weeks that, pardon the legalese, appealed to both sides.