As students at law schools across the country graduate this spring, 40 sixth-grade students at the Laurence School, an independent K-6th grade elementary school in Valley Glen (just north of Sherman Oaks), prepared their first case before a jury of their peers.
After months of studying the law and judicial system, Laurence’s Kids’ Court convened on April 27th and April 28th. The eleven and twelve-year-old students presented the case of “The County of Neverland vs. Peter Pan.” The legendary runaway, Peter Pan, was tried for the attempted murder of Captain James Hook.
Jury selection took place on April 20th. Jurors were randomly selected by lottery from a pool of second through fifth grade students who completed and submitted jury questionnaires. Prior to being sworn in, each potential juror was questioned in court by the judge.
“In addition to teaching kids how the law works, they also learn the importance of embracing social responsibility at a young age,” says Lauren Wolke, J.D., Laurence’s Head of School and creator of the Kids’ Court program.
As is the case in all trials, the prosecution and defense rehearsed their arguments. Specific testimony was influenced by the live participation of fellow students, who were courtroom observers and encouraged to ask questions. “It is a wonderful opportunity for the students to hone their critical thinking and public speaking skills,” says Wolke. The verdict? Peter Pan was acquitted.
Kids’ Court, Laurence’s award-winning mock trial program, has been putting famous literary figures – from Frank N. Stein to Snow White – on trial for twenty seven years. The School was among the first elementary schools in the country to implement a mock trial program. In fact, such programs are still not common for students in primary school. At Laurence, participation in Kids’ Court has become a rite of passage and a much-anticipated privilege for each year’s sixth grade graduating class.