Mock trial students take their knowledge to the courtroom
Paul D. Schreiber’s Mock Trial Club in Port Washington has set the bar high with its extensive knowledge in the courtroom. Gennaro Fontano’s mock trial club recently took their talents to Nassau County Supreme Court building in Mineola to participate in the beginning rounds of the state-wide New York State High School Mock Trial Program. After defeating Great Neck South High School, Port’s students took on Syosset High School and scored enough points overall to advance forward to the second round on March 4.
“The mock trial program affords our students with invaluable educational experience,” Dr. Michael Hynes, superintendent of Port Washington Union Free School District, said. “It’s fascinating to watch our students hone their critical thinking, public speaking and writing skills to make a successful case. Fontano has done a phenomenal job of teaching our students the significance of working as a team to accomplish a common goal through the mock trial club.”
For 2020, the case is “United States vs. Phoenix Jones” which involves a defendant who was alleged to have used cryptocurrency to buy and sell stolen goods. Students portray defense attorneys, defense witnesses, prosecution attorneys and prosecution witnesses. Three students act in each role. Student witnesses memorize affidavits to allow them to accurately roleplay their function. Lawyers work with their witnesses to strengthen the case during direct examinations and prepare to cross-examine the opposing team’s witnesses. In the mock trial, student attorneys do not have access to the affidavits or coaching of the other side’s witnesses, nor do witnesses know what questions they will be asked when cross-examined.
The New York State High School Mock Trial Program consists of 50 Nassau County schools that compete against each other; winners advance onto the regional and, eventually, state-wide matches. Competing schools are judged based on two key components: how well students perform based on a predetermined scoring system and whose side the judge would have ruled in favor of.
“What a rush it is to watch our students in the courtroom, getting sworn in by an actual trial judge, and performing so well in this competition” Fontano said. “There’s something to be said about how our students handle themselves in high-stress courtroom situations. I cannot overstate how thankful we all are for the help and support from administration and members of the social studies department, as well as our lawyer-adviser Bernadette Ford, who has donated countless hours to helping make our team successful.”
Schreiber’s Mock Trial Club, available to all grade levels, meets twice a week on Thursdays and Saturdays. Occasionally students also meet on their own outside of the club’s designated practice days. For example, defense attorneys will meet at a student’s house or the library to work on coordinating their questions or opening/closing statements. Every member of the team plays a pivotal role that enhances the team’s practice, support and performance.
For more information about the Port Washington Union Free School District, visit the district’s website at www.portnet.org and like their Facebook page: PortWashSchools.
—Submitted by the Port Washington School District