INFORUM.com | WDAZ.com

WDAY: The News Leader

Published October 18, 2009, 07:29 PM

For ND teachers, it's a chance to be a judge

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — As part of an effort to increase North Dakota students' knowledge of the state's judicial system, the Supreme Court is holding a workshop for history and government teachers about how courts and judges do their work.

By: DALE WETZEL, Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — As part of an effort to increase North Dakota students' knowledge of the state's judicial system, the Supreme Court is holding a workshop for history and government teachers about how courts and judges do their work.

The teachers will form mock appellate courts and listen to arguments by Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Robin Huseby, a former Barnes County prosecutor who is now director of a state agency that provides attorneys for poor people accused of crimes.

Stenehjem and Huseby will be arguing a free-speech case that focuses on whether a student may be barred from running for school office because she insulted school administrators on her personal blog. The teachers then will deliberate the case and make their rulings, using federal court decisions on student First Amendment cases to guide them.

The issue of student free speech rights is a burgeoning area of the law, especially with the proliferation of Internet social networks that make it easier for young people to broadcast their opinions outside school, Justice Mary Muehlen Maring said.

In one famous case two years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled a student could be suspended from school for displaying a banner at a school-supervised event off school grounds. The banner read: "Bong Hits 4 Jesus."

"They're exciting cases, and there is so much happening in this entire area, in terms of students' rights, when they're actually off the campus site," Maring said. "(The teachers) will actually walk in the shoes of a justice."

Seventeen teachers are participating in the 1½-day seminar, which begins Thursday in the Capitol. The workshop is the third one sponsored by the Supreme Court for teachers in the last four years, Maring said.

The Supreme Court also makes regular visits to high schools where the justices hear oral arguments in a pending case and speak to students.

"We were trying to figure out a way to reach many more students," Maring said. "If we can teach the teachers, they can go back and, year after year, they can touch all of these students every year."

The teachers will be given lesson plans and will be introduced to an attorney who will be available to help them later, she said.

Stenehjem said arguing before a mock court of teachers is similar to presenting an actual case.

"The argument and the process is basically the same," Stenehjem said. "The idea is to give these teachers an idea of how a court case works."

Tags: