Government class law week tradition returns to MCHS on Monday
For the 20th year, students will have the chance to ask a police officer, “What if?”
From Monday to Friday, Moffat County High School government teachers Liane Davis-Kling and Jeff Simon will present their students with law week.
“It started in 1989, and it’s actually based off the American Bar Association’s law day,” Davis-Kling said. “Judge Mary Lynne James – the previous district judge, who retired two years ago – she took it under her wing. We worked together for a week of activities.”
Law week usually is near the end of the semester, Davis-Kling said.
Students have had a chance to talk with Craig Police officers, the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office, Colorado State Patrol and other law enforcement officials, Davis-Kling said.
Davis-Kling said she tries to get the students into a courtroom every year. But when the schedule won’t allow for a visit to an actual courtroom, the students make their own court, she said.
“The first year we had law week, we went out to Mary Lynne James’ house, videotaped a crime and put on a mock trial,” she said. “That was one of the years that sticks out in my mind the most. The students got to see the process from start to finish.”
School officials also will join the question-and-answer sessions.
“The students will have a chance to ask school administrators law-type questions,” Davis-Kling said.
The Craig Police Department has been a part of law week for years.
Police Chief Walt Vanatta said police officers enjoy interacting with students.
“Any time you can have positive interaction with the young citizens of the community, it’s a benefit for both,” he said. “Because it gives you a chance to know them as people in a non-adversarial circumstance.”
Having students’ questions answered is an important part of the week, Davis-Kling said.
“It gives students a chance to ask the questions they normally feel too threatened to ask,” she said.
“And that’s exactly why we set it up, so kids get the idea and learn from it.”
Vanatta said the police department has a chance to talk with students throughout the year, but law week offers the students a chance to connect with the officers.
“We have the D.A.R.E. program, and school resource officers are always providing input in the classrooms,” Vanatta said. “They are always police officers, but it’s important to see them as people, too.”
Sometimes, students get more than enough information, Davis-Kling said.
“They get to have their questions answered about what it’s like to be in the system,” Davis-Kling said. “It’s everything you really wanted to know, but didn’t want to know about the court and law system.”
Vanatta said officers focus on different issues each time they speak with students.
“They’ll talk about the different things they see – it just depends on the focus of the class,” he said. “It could be recruiting or explaining the values of a career in law enforcement. It could be the issues related to drugs and alcohol.”
Every year, law week has a different theme, Davis-Kling said. This year, President Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday will be the theme.
Students also will have an opportunity to try to solve a crime, Davis-Kling said.
“We would like to have CSI-type stuff – that was our class last week in the Citizens Police Academy,” she said. “We might bring the kids down to the station, because everything is already down there and they wouldn’t have to bring it to the high school for just two days.
“There’s a PowerPoint presentation and a room big enough to present it.”
In honor of Lincoln’s 200th birthday, the crime scene investigation might focus on a possible theft of Lincoln’s body.
“It would be a nice opportunity to tie in law week with Lincoln’s birthday,” Davis-Kling said.
Law week is required for all students enrolled in government classes, but Davis-Kling said everything they learn is applicable to real-life situations.
“I like having them go through it, let them see how the police work – what happens to you once something happens to you,” she said. “It’s a chance for the kids to see how court works, how you get picked for jury duty and what you have to do.
“We hope you don’t get a traffic citation, but it’s probably going to happen. This is a chance to ask, ‘What should I do if something happens to me?'”
For Davis-Kling, the highlights of law week are the question-and-answer sessions with the police officers.
“I like to call it ‘Comedy Central,'” she said. “They just play so well off each other, and it’s no-holds-barred when it comes to the questions.”
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