Sauvie Island School students held a mock trial at the Columbia County Courthouse, June 3.
It may not resemble an episode of “Law & Order,” but students from Sauvie Island School got some practical experience earlier this month presenting a case in front of a judge.
A mock trial was held June 3 at the Columbia County Courthouse, in front of Circuit Court Judge Michael Clarke.
The mock trial program is based on materials from the Classroom Law Project organization, according to Matt Radich, who teaches social studies to sixth- through eighth-graders at Sauvie Island School, a public charter school affiliated with the Scappoose School District.
“We adapt their high school-level materials to be accessible to our eighth-grade students,” Radich said.
At Sauvie Island School, the mock trial program is a full-class project, not an elective or club. That’s a key difference from most high school mock trial programs, since all students have to participate and learn from the experience.
“We are able to make enough roles so that everyone in the class can play a part in the culminating trial, as well as play an important role behind the scenes preparing as a team,” Radich said, noting that he has run the program as a short unit in his social studies class for the past eight years.
At the Columbia County Courthouse in St. Helens, the mock trials have been held in front of Judge Jenefer Grant and, more recently, Clarke.
This year, only 18 students participated in the trial itself, due to some unforeseen absences.
The mock trial involves civil, not criminal cases. Part of the reason is the burden of proof in each type of trial.
“So far, we have only done civil cases in our eight years,” Radich said. “I’d like to try a criminal case