Students from Belle Chasse Middle School learned about the judicial system by staging a mock trial involving a fictitious character, Johnny Smith, and his crime of Possessing Drugs on School Grounds.
The trials, which took place at the Plaquemines Parish Courthouse in Pointe a la Hache, placed students in the shoes of prosecutors, defense attorneys, bailiff, court clerk, witnesses, victim, and defendant. Presiding over the trials were Retired 4th Circuit Court Judge Michael Kirby and 25th Judicial District Court Judge Kevin Conner. The successful program started in the year 2000 and has been continued by District Attorney Charles Ballay.
The goal of the program is designed to help students recognize and analyze potential consequences of the difficult decisions students face during adolescence and beyond. By focusing on peer pressure, responsibility, self-respect, self-control and self-esteem, Project L.E.A.D. gives students the tools necessary to avoid many of the pitfalls and traps that often lead to delinquent conduct and criminal activity. It is our hope that students will continue to strive to make good and responsible decisions, to think of consequences of actions and inactions, to respect others, and to obey the laws of the land.
The L.E.A.D. (Legal Enrichment And Decision-making) curriculum includes fact patterns in which the characters approach various moral and legal crossroads. These are designed to illustrate how easy it can sometimes be to step over the line without even being aware of it. These fact patterns provide an interesting basis for class discussion. Students read aloud the parts in these scenarios, thus preparing for the mock trial which is the culmination of the L.E.A.D. lessons.
Project L.E.A.D. is taught to every 6th grader in our parish by one of the six assistant district attorneys in the DA’s Office: First Assistant Jerry Lobrano, Mary Touzet, Sarah Tesvich, Jason Napoli, Temia Griffin, and Daniel Swear. Belle Chasse Middle is taught in the fall semester while Phoenix, South Plaquemines, Boothville-Venice and OLPH are taught in the spring.
We invite parents and relatives of all children who participate in the mock trials to attend so they can see the hard work the students have done to make this possible. We would like to encourage parents to talk to their children on how easy it can sometimes be to step over the line without even being aware of it.