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Law magnets: attracting students to law-related education.

In Sarasota, students are examining how Supreme Court justices make decisions--by participating in a simulated oral argument. In Pinellas Park, students are investigating crime scenes and analyzing evidence. In Jacksonville, high school law magnet students are using case studies to apply the law to their everyday lives. In Tampa, students are resolving school-based disputes through peer mediation programs. These scenarios exemplify the broad range of law-related education experiences offered in Florida high school classrooms.

Schools have multiple options for implementing law-related education into their curriculum. However, several common features distinguish law-related education programs. These include: 1) a focus on law, the legal system, and the fundamental values on which this system is based; 2) use of interactive strategies to engage students in the learning process and develop the skills necessary to utilize and apply their knowledge; and 3) use of attorneys and judges extensively in the classroom and field trips to supplement the curriculum with real world experiences.

Law-related education combines substance with interactive, proven strategies to teach children the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to be active, productive citizens knowledgeable about our law and legal process and dedicated to preserving democracy and improving the administration of justice. While teaching children about the rule of law and the institutions and processes central to a democratic society seem fundamental, the teaching of law-related education is a relatively new phenomenon.(1)

The Law Magnet Movement

The evolution of Florida's law-related education movement has seen unprecedented developments. In 1994, The Florida Law Related Education Association, Inc., received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education to identify and provide services to schools with a special curriculum focus in law.(2) A network of law magnet schools and academies has developed throughout the state. These schools offer a wide range of programs for students with law-related interests. Courses such as law studies, comprehensive law studies, legal systems and concepts, criminal justice assisting, court procedures, court internships, public affairs, and numerous other courses are offered.

Many of these schools infuse law into other traditional subject areas as well, such as math, language arts, and science. Additionally, beautiful courtrooms or even forensic labs may be found on these campuses.

The term "magnet" grew out of the desegregation movement.(3) These programs were designed to "attract" students to specific schools. A wide range of law-related acadamies also exist, such as criminal justice, public service, or law and order. Students interested in a wide range of law-related careers such as paralegals, lawyers, law enforcement officers, and court reporters will be exposed to innovative law-related experiences. However, even students with no interest in law-related careers are attracted to these schools because of the innovative curriculum and practical life skills application.

These special law-related home-based schools require the active involvement of Florida's legal and judicial communities. Teachers may not have adequate content knowledge for these law-related courses. Lawyers and judges can serve as resource persons in and out of the classroom.


Law-related theme-based schools generally provide a multifaceted approach to attract a wide range of students. Tracks may include law studies, criminal justice assisting, and legal assisting classes. Profiles of several schools follow to demonstrate the variety of programs offered throughout Florida.

* Palm Beach Lakes Community High School

The Center for Pre-Law and Law Related Careers at Palm Beach Lakes Community High School offers a unique law magnet program in Palm Beach County. Students are recruited from public and private middle schools throughout the county. Selection is based on an admissions process that includes a 2.5 cumulative grade point average, scores in quartiles 3 or 4 on the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills, an essay expressing a desire and/or motivation to enter the law field, and teacher recommendations.

The law magnet curriculum includes civic education and business systems and technology in the ninth grade, with comprehensive law, debate, and leadership skills offered in the 10th grade. Upperclassmen have access to Business Law I and II, logic and ethics, and a co-op legal internship, all dual enrollment courses held on the high school campus. Students participate in mock trial activities, civics and debate competitions, and county council activities. Actual court trials are held in the campus courtroom, a true Palm Beach County Courthouse annex, and students take field trips to the county courthouse, the county jail, and to other law magnet programs in south Florida.

Law-related education makes learning exciting and relevant through interactive and innovative methods of instruction. Students show greater interest in their classes, resulting in improved attendance, increased graduation rates, and increased college enrollment. Students receive an understanding of the Constitution and gain a respect and appreciation for the judicial system. Ultimately, students comprehend how laws influence every aspect of society.

An advisory council assists with program implementation. Local attorneys and judges are actively involved. For additional information, contact Mary Wilkeson at Palm Beach Lakes Community High School, 3505 Shiloh Dr., West Palm Beach 561/640-5000.

* Wolfson High School, Jacksonville

Wolfson High School in Jacksonville combines a tradition of academic excellence with dynamic and innovative programs in its Business, Finance and Law Magnet. Practical experiences, specialized courses, mentorships, guest speakers, and business partnerships offer a preview of the day-to-day worlds of the office and courtroom. Students enjoy the best opportunities for college and workplace preparation, scholarships, job placement, extracurricular and athletic involvement. And it all takes place in a safe and friendly environment. Physical facilities offering the newest technology, including a courtroom, and experienced, dedicated faculty give students a competitive edge in the workplace or college classroom. The success of the Wolfson magnet program can be attributed to its excellent staff and community resources.

In the ninth grade students take a magnet American government (one-half credit) course with an emphasis on the role of law in our political system. Instruction takes place in a simulated courtroom environment. Students may also participate in mock legislatures, city government programs, and Florida Close-Up.

Ninth grade students also are required to take an introduction to law studies (one-half credit) course. The class introduces students to the different areas of law and provides preparation for the more sophisticated comprehensive law studies course.

Tenth grade law magnet students are required to take magnet world history (one credit), which provides students with opportunities to investigate the history and development of law and legal systems. Emphasis is given to the role and development of law in each society and at different periods in history.

Eleventh grade law magnet students take a one credit comprehensive law studies course which provides an in-depth examination of the philosophy, structure, and functions of our criminal and civil justice systems. Information is supplemented with frequent seminars from members of the legal community, as well as participation in mock trials, field trips, and competitions.

Seniors take three one-half credit courses including court procedures, court internships, and legal systems and concepts. The court procedures class provides extensive study of the judicial process of the United States and Florida. Content includes the structure, philosophy, and procedures of circuit and appellate courts for both criminal and civil cases. In a joint project with the Jacksonville Chapter of the American Board of Trial Advocates, students take a civil case from complaint to verdict and judgment using a school scenario.

In court internships, students spend time on the job with a legal mentor and apply class instruction to real-life situations.

For additional information, contact Pam Basney, Wolfson High School, 2630 Castile Rd., Jacksonville 904/733-6719.

* Miami Carol City Senior High School

The magnet program at Miami Carol City Senior High School offers a comprehensive program to college-bound students wishing to pursue interests in the law or government. Students work in an atmosphere that fosters independent learning, participating in research, and community projects. The program is available to students entering ninth and 10th grade.

The mission of the Center for Legal and Public Affairs is to provide instruction according to a specified curriculum in the areas of criminal justice, law, and public administration. The program also provides both college and job placement assistance, and, upon satisfactory completion of the magnet program, students will be awarded up to 24 college credits.

The highlights of the program are:

* Unique course offerings covering issues in law, public administration, politics, and government;

* Involvement by local professionals and public officials;

* Field trips to city and county government offices, local universities and colleges, and federal, state, and county courts;

* Public service projects to fulfill community service hours;

* Dual enrollment opportunities at local universities; and

* Summer programs on the campus of St. Thomas University.

The center also promotes student participation in community affairs. In doing so, it teaches an appreciation for civic values, fosters the ideals of ethical public service, and encourages students to become exemplary community leaders in the future. The students become active participants working for the betterment of society.

Students at the center work closely with professionals, participating in shadowing and mentoring programs. Local professionals including distinguished practicing attorneys, judges, and representatives from the university community offer guidance and assistance to the program. These professionals provide financial leadership, offer summer internships to the students, act as mentors, and promote the center in the community.

At the Center for Legal and Public Affairs, students learn by working in the field. Some of the activities that students participate in are: spending a day at city hall; meeting with elected and nonelected officials; simulating a county commission meeting and discussing the issues surrounding county government every day; visiting and observing trials in progress to see what judges and attorneys do on a daily basis; working on political forums and public service projects with local and state political figures; and visiting local correctional and law enforcement agencies.

The program offered at the Center for Legal and Public Affairs emphasizes leadership skills training. Students in the program develop action plans for the betterment of the community and formulate positive solutions to contemporary problems. The program fosters a sense of community connectedness, which will benefit our society as this generation assumes leadership in the 21st century. For additional information, contact Alexis Bethel at Miami Carol City Senior High School, 3422 N.W. 187th Street, Miami 33056, 305)/621-5681.

* Booker High School, Sarasota The Booker High School Law/Public Service Academy is a specially designed four-year program with an emphasis on computer competencies, communication skills, and understanding the legal system. In addition to innovative hands-on classes, the program incorporates field trips, guest speakers, and court observations on a regular basis.

Booker High School is located at the north end of Sarasota County but students are bused from all parts of the district. The school meets the needs of a diverse population of 1,475 students from 21 different countries. The school's demographics include 62 percent Caucasian, 25 percent African-American, 11 percent Hispanic, and 2.5 percent Asian.

The Law/Public Service Academy offers a legal assisting, criminal justice assisting, and law studies track. The law studies track provides an intensive four-year course of study which focuses on legal issues and will qualify students for further study at a college or university. Court procedures, speech, accounting, issues in public affairs and the legal system are investigated within this special area. Opportunities to observe county and circuit courts are incorporated. Seniors may participate in an executive internship.

The Sarasota Bar Association provides assistance to the school with mock trial and resource speakers. Supreme Court Justice Fred Lewis recently visited Booker to interact with the students and provide an introduction to the Constitution, the courts, and the appellate process.

For additional information, contact Amy Petz or Jeremy Lourde at Booker High School, 3201 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota 34234, 941/355-2967.

* Ft. Lauderdale High School

Ft. Lauderdale High School Law Magnet Program is one of the pioneers of the magnet movement and is presently in its eighth year. Students from all over Broward County travel sometimes more than an hour (one way) to attend this unique program, offering stimulating and dynamic law courses. FLHS law magnet offers a fully functional weekly student court, which tries FLHS students who have received parking violations on the school grounds. The student court of juniors and seniors is staffed with students, who are "prosecutors," "public defenders," "judges," "court clerks," and "bailiffs." The students are trained with a third-year law school trial advocacy text for 10 weeks. Florida Bar member/teacher Sharon Bleier Glickman is the coordinator who emphasizes professional ethics and the proper understanding and usage of Florida and federal rules of evidence. The curriculum is modified to meet the needs and understanding of a third- and fourth-year high school student.

Students learn step-by-step procedures for impeachment, jury voir dire, witness depositions, opening statement, direct and cross examination, and closing arguments. After listening to the trial, student jurors decide the verdict and determine the community service hour fine. This court program is now going into its fifth year.

Retired police officer Frank DeRusso coordinates the four-year criminal justice program. Some of the activities include fingerprinting, police officer testimony in student court, the study of forensic lab evidence, and student internships with the Broward County state attorney and public defender offices.

A public affairs program, coordinated by teacher John Pellegrino, includes community involvement and internship opportunities with city boards and the county commission.

A full international law course, which covers current international law cases, is also offered. International law attorneys frequently speak to update students on important issues.

The FLHS debate team consists of many law magnet students and has won many awards in the county as well as the national debate competitions. Mock trial competitions are emphasized in civics and comprehensive and research law classes. Students participate in Broward County mock trial competitions sponsored by Nova Southeastern University Law School, coordinated by Judge Robert F. Diaz. At the Florida State High School Mock Trial Competition in Tallahassee, the FLHS team has represented Broward County for four years. This team has been coached by Glickman and last year was joined by Arie Porth, a Broward County state prosecutor.

Students can apply to page for Broward County legislators for a week in the spring with the magnet program assisting students in securing these positions. When a ninth grader enters the program, Gloria Washington, coordinator, helps each student choose from one of the four-year tracks, which include law enforcement; paralegal; legal secretary; court reporter; law and attorney studies; and public affairs.

The program has received immense support from the legal community including Chief Judge Dale Ross, a graduate of FLHS, and Judge Joel T. Lazarus, who coordinates a ghost jury program and is the law magnet legal advisor. Judge Ilona M. Holmes has also been a frequent guest speaker and mentor. The program also enjoys strong administrative and community support. For additional information, contact Sharon Bleier Glickman or Gloria Washington at Ft. Lauderdale High School, 1600 N.E. 4th Ave., Ft. Lauderdale 33305, 954/ 765-6921, ext. 8160.

* Dr. Michael M. Krop Senior High School, Miami

Dr. Michael Krop is a new high school in Miami-Dade County, which opened its doors for the 199899 school year with ninth and 10th grade students. The current student body consists of ninth, 10th, and 11th grade students. The school has four academies, one of which is the liberal arts academy with a legal studies program and a criminal justice program. The courses in these programs are designed to allow students to prepare for entrance to a four-year college or university or a two-year vocational program. Students may also elect to enter directly into the workforce.

The legal studies program familiarizes students with professional legal careers, such as lawyers, paralegals, court reporters, judges, and politicians by participating in a variety of experiences, such as mock trials, guest speakers, field trips, and internships. In the legal studies program, students are encouraged to take law-related courses in the ninth grade. The program is set up with three years of classroom instruction in areas such as criminal law, civil law, court procedures, and local, state, and national government. Students who successfully complete three years of instruction may take dual enrollment courses at the local university and be involved in a law-related internship. These activities allow the student to pursue a career in law, to understand the workings of the criminal justice system, and to guide a career choice.

During the first year, students enroll in two semester courses: law studies and legal systems and concepts. The focus of the law studies class is to expose students to local level government, and civil and criminal law. After this introduction, the legal systems and concepts course compares local government with state and national government. The courses have a wide array of guest speakers and field experiences to local government and political venues. Students are provided opportunities to meet and discuss controversial issues with influential persons in the legal community.

The second-year course is designed for students to take constitutional law and court procedures and is available only to students who have successfully completed the law studies class. Mock appellate arguments and the "We the People" competition is part of the study as well as setting up and running a student court, which adjudicates violations of the Code of Student Conduct. Student court provides real courtroom experiences and allows students to develop critical thinking skills.

All students in law studies courses are encouraged to become part of the Law Club, which offers guest speakers, mentors, and field trip opportunities. The club encourages participation in community service activities, such as Miami-Dade County Teen Court. Next year dual enrollment courses in ethics and logic are planned in addition to legal internships with local attorneys, politicians, and judges. These programs are designed to bridge the gap between the school and the legal community.

The criminal justice program prepares students for careers as corrections officers, police officers, and probation and parole officers. The courses offered are Criminal Justice Assisting I, II, and III. When students complete these courses, they will be eligible for a Florida Vocational Gold Seal Award, a scholarship to pursue a degree in criminal justice at any Florida university. Students could also go directly into the police academy or other law enforcement program upon graduation from this program.

If our goal as social studies educators is to prepare our students to become effective, productive, and informed citizens, there are no better courses to use. Law-related education instills in all students a feeling of empowerment. One voice can make a difference. For additional information, call Connie Higgins at Dr. Michael Krop Senior High School, 305/652-6808.


These profiles represent a sampling of the innovative programs which span the state to provide students with a realistic and practical understanding of our legal system and the U.S. Constitution. Although law magnet schools and academies offer a specialized curriculum focus in the law, many nonmagnet, regular schools also offer extensive law-related elective courses including law studies, comprehensive law studies, court procedures, legal systems and concepts, and public affairs. In Florida, a half-credit American Government course is required for graduation.(4)

The law magnet school movement has provided opportunities for a diverse student body to participate in our democratic institutions and practice the skills of citizenship. Students learn to think critically, make reasoned decisions, and look at issues from multiple perspectives.

(1) Lee Arbetman, Blending Substance and Strategy for Citizen Education, 6 The Challenge, No. 3/4.

(2) The U.S. Department of Education funded a proposal to identify and promote law magnet programs in Florida. The author wrote the grant proposal which incorporated a series of law magnet conferences and a resource book for new magnet programs.

(3) Magnet programs exist in many disciplines. Growing out of court-ordered desegregation orders, schools became more innovative in developing curriculum programs to "attract" students of various racial and ethnic backgrounds to specific schools which might have under-represented student populations.

(4) The required instruction statute in Florida requires the teaching of local, state and federal governments. Yet, this translates into only a half-credit American Government course for high school students. All other law courses are electives.

Connie Higgins is a law teacher and coordinator. She currently works at Dr. Michael Krop Senior High School and was instrumental in developing the legal studies program. Ms. Higgins has served as lead teacher at Miami Carol City and has worked for the Dade County Public Schools' district office.

Alexis M. Bethel is the lead teacher of the Miami Carol City Senior High's Center for Legal and Public Affairs. She is a 1990 graduate of Carol City Senior High School, a 1993 graduate of Florida A&M University, and a 1996 graduate of St. Thomas University School of Law. She has returned to her alma mater to share her knowledge with the Carol City High students.

Sharon Bleier Glickman is vice chair of The Florida Bar Law Related Education Committee; member of The Florida Bar Long Range Planning Committee and Bar Grievance Committee 17B; past president of the Broward County Women Lawyers' Association and the Florida Association for Women Lawyers. She is a teacher at Ft. Lauderdale High School and a sole practitioner in the law firm of Sharon Bleier Glickman, P.A., Coral Springs.
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Title Annotation:Florida
Author:Higgins, Connie; Bethel, Alexis M.; Glickman, Sharon Bleier
Publication:Florida Bar Journal
Geographic Code:1U5FL
Date:Jan 1, 2000
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Next Article:Law-related education: a responsibility of the legal profession.

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