PSU graduate student coaches David Douglas mock trial team

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On March 4, a dozen teams of high school students competed in a regional Mock Trial competition in the Clackamas County Courthouse. Joseph Cornett, a PSU graduate student in the Secondary Dual Educator Program (SDEP) led the David Douglas High School (DDHS) team of eight. It is the first time in 10 years that DDHS has fielded a team.

Mock Trial is a competitive academic activity that puts two teams up against one another in arguing an authentic legal case. The Classroom Law Project developed the Mock Trial Competition to promote civic engagement and legal education throughout the state of Oregon.

In Mock Trial competition, there are three rounds. Teams are assigned to defend or prosecute cases they have previously studied, but until they begin, they do not know which side they will argue. Students must be familiar with and carefully follow court procedures. They learn to address the judge, how and when to object to questions, and what attorneys from each side are expected to know and do. Students get a dose of real-world public speaking practice and a positive courthouse experience. The “jury” is comprised of volunteer judges who tally scores.

Coach Cornett is in his second year of SDEP in the Graduate School of Education. Graduates of this program earn a teaching license and master’s degree in special education and a content area, in this case, social studies. Cornett will be qualified to teach social studies in middle and high school and able to work successfully with students from a variety of ability levels in his classroom. SDEP is unique to PSU and one of only a few such programs in the country. Dual-licensed teachers are in high demand in school districts because many schools are looking for flexibility in their workforce.

“As coach of the DDHS team, it has been a great joy to witness the tremendous growth of my ‘great eight’ in knowledge of the law and in public speaking confidence,” said Cornett. “They have put in a lot of hard work.”

The teams participating in the Clackamas County competition were David Douglas, Colton, Lake Oswego (two teams), Lakeridge (three teams), Reynolds, Sandy, St. Stephen’s Academy, and West Linn (two teams). The top three teams are invited to the state competition, with the winner eligible for the national competition.

Final teams for the Clackamas County completion who are moving on to state are: Lake Oswego Navy Team, Lakeridge High School Blue Team, West Linn Gold Team and West Linn Green team. State competition is held at the Hatfield Federal Courthouse March 17. The state winners are eligible for the National High School Mock Trial Competition in Hartford, Connecticut, scheduled for May 11-13, 2017.

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