Recently, more than 330 students from five AISD schools participated in mock trials that opened a dialogue on an important subject affecting youth: teen dating violence.
Teen dating violence is physical, sexual, or psychological/emotional violence within a dating relationship, and can also include stalking. According to a 2011 survey by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, 9.4 percent of high school students reported being hit, slapped or physically hurt by their partner within the 12 months prior to the survey.
The mock trial exercise enabled students to discuss the importance of recognizing teen dating violence and address misconceptions surrounding it. Students participated as jurors, assistant prosecutors and co-defense counsel and had to determine whether or not the actions of a fictional teenaged couple constituted dating violence or stalking. After reviewing evidence that included testimonials from the victim and the defendant, recorded cell phone messages and a torn blouse, students were asked to reach either a guilty or not guilty verdict and decide if a protective order should be required.
AISD partnered with Judge Orlinda Naranjo of the 419th Civil District Court, who presided over the courtroom dramatization, as well as with local attorneys Aurora Martinez Jones and Julio de la Llata who played the roles of prosecutor and defense counsel, respectively. In addition to hearing from legal professionals on the subject, students also had the opportunity to discuss issues related to teen dating violence with leaders in the community. Randi Randolph with the Expect Respect program at SafePlace, AISD Chief of Staff Mel Waxler and Travis County Sherriff Greg Hamilton each presented information to students that addressed how abuse could be prevented and what actions should be taken if abuse is suspected.
“This was an excellent opportunity for these students to be exposed to wonderful role models, including attorneys and judges,” Judge Naranjo said. “As well as a positive learning experience about our legal system and a meaningful discussion of a very pertinent social issue.”