Last week, Belle Aire Intermediate School's 5th Grade Enrichment Class embarked on an educational journey to Columbus, Ohio, where they explored the Ohio Supreme Court, learned about its historical significance, and actively participated in a mock trial.
Upon arrival, the students were welcomed by the Honorable Mary E. King, Fayette County Probate and Juvenile Court Judge. Judge King, a 1997 Blue Lion Alumna, shared insights into the judicial system, recounted her personal journey from being a Blue Lion student to a judge, and pointed out hidden Ohio symbols to look for throughout their tour.
"I told them how nervous I was when I had oral arguments at the Ohio Supreme Court in 2007," she explained, highlighting her personal journey. She also stressed the need for lawyers in Fayette County, urging interested students to explore legal careers.
“If they want to be problem solvers and help others,” explained King, “contact the Juvenile Court and Fayette County Bar Association for help with a career path in law.”
Following their conversation with Judge King, a courthouse volunteer guided the students on a comprehensive 90-minute tour of the Ohio Supreme Court building. The tour showcased architectural art adorned with American Indian, Art Deco, and Classic motifs. The students also explored the Court's award-winning Visitor Education Center, featuring a permanent exhibit dedicated to Ohio's legal history.
The day's culmination was a captivating mock trial, where the Blue Lions took on the roles of judge, jury, and everything in between.
Judge Dillen Sibbett oversaw the trial with the help of Bailiff Hannah Preston. Plaintiff Kailee Cottrill and her attorney, Caius Thomas, as well as Defendant Jena Wilson and her attorney, Brodie Caulley, presented their cases to a jury of their peers. After testimonies by the aforementioned students, as well as witnesses Elliott Dennis and Liam Camp, the jury’s verdict was delivered by Foreperson MaKayla Sullivan.
The trial, inspired by R.J. Palacio's book "Wonder," currently studied by the students, showcased all elements of a regular court hearing. During the proceedings, the 5th graders utilized concepts from the novel to discuss the importance of fairness and impartiality in the courts, important concepts about courtroom procedures, evidence, and witnesses.
"The students learned that each person's role is an important piece of the judicial system,” shared Mrs. Wanda Carter, the students' teacher, highlighting the trial's educational impression.
She also emphasized the impact of the trip overall, stating, “some of our students have never visited the city or traveled outside of Washington Court House, let alone met a judge or sat in the Supreme Court.”
“It was a great experience for all who attended,” explained Carter, "my students learned a lot, and they are very grateful for this opportunity."
To help offset costs of the trip, Belle Aire Intermediate School qualified for a transportation grant provided by the Ohio Supreme Court.