Law Day teaches, engages fifth-graders

  • Tue May 18th, 2010 8:16pm

By Katie Murdoch Enterprise editor

LYNNWOOD — Those passing by a room at the Snohomish County District Court, South Division on May 14 may have done double-takes at the sights: a state patrol trooper swinging a dog mid-air by a chew toy in the dog’s mouth and, at another point, fifth-graders cheering on troopers and a prosecuting attorney as they stumbled down a straight line wearing “beer goggles.”

“I’ve done that with my dog,” said Bradley Hyde, 10, a student at Hilltop Elementary School in Lynnwood, of the first trick and his mixed-breed puggle. “He doesn’t really like it.”

The sight of young people laughing and appearing comfortable around law enforcement figures was one of the anticipated outcomes of Law Day in Lynnwood earlier this month. Law Day is a national event, held annually in May.

Roughly 800 fifth-graders from 14 Edmonds School District elementary schools and Immaculate Conception and Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic School in Everett participated in the 24th annual Law Day at the Snohomish County District Court in Lynnwood. This year’s theme was “Law in the 21st Century: Enduring Traditions, Emerging Challenges.”

The students visited four 20-minute interactive events to learn about the legal system, namely traffic safety, the consequences of drunken driving and the motions of a criminal trial. Officers and attorneys balanced tough topics like drugs and drunken driving with games and activities to keep students laughing.

Attorney Paul Hanson, co-chair of the south division Law Day, said one of the highlights of the event is seeing children excited and captivated.

Hanson said on average 800 students participate in the county’s Law Day per year compared to 60 students when the program began. Hanson brainstormed with judges and court clerks to offer lessons that would be hands on and short enough to hold a 10-year-old’s attention.

“We asked, ‘What kind of stuff can fifth-graders relate to?’” he said.

The event not only teaches students about the law, but it presents a possible career path for some students.

“We want them to have a positive view of police, law enforcement and the courthouse,” Hanson said. “At 17, they would be too cynical.”

During the mock trial, students tried one of their peers for allegedly shoplifting a hat. Participating students donned black robes, bailiffs hit a gavel and jurors deliberated based off the information they heard.

Judge Carol McRae, public defenders Whitney Rivera and Sara Ayoubi, civil attorney Kokie Adams and prosecuting attorney Julie Walters coached the students through their roles and answered questions about their professions.

State patrol trooper Joel Anderson, Sgt. James Riley and Tracy McMillan, Snohomish County DUI and Traffic Safety Task Force coordinator, taught the students about safe driving and the consequences of drunken driving.

Students took turns sporting “beer goggles” and teetered down a white line while learning about the effects of alcohol.

McMillan prepared the students for the sobering image of a car involved in a fatal crash they were going to see. The vehicle belonged to 17-year-old Justin Stump of Stanwood who crashed in 2006 while speeding and driving drunk.

“He’s not a bad person; he made bad choices,” McMillan told the students.

Ashlynn Lundquist, 11, of Hilltop Elementary, thought she had mentally prepared for the image of a totaled car.

“I was really surprised that it was so bad,” Lundquist said. “Don’t drink and drive or do drugs.”

In another room of the courthouse, Hunter, a 4-year-old black lab, and Moose, an 8-year-old springer spaniel, searched for baggies filled with drugs and promptly sat when they found them. Later, Moose walked over to a group of students and laid across their laps.

Detective Greg Jamison of the Lynnwood Police Department and Detective Julie Jamison of the Lake Stevens Police Department hosted Law Day “Jeopardy,” modeled on the TV game show.

Justin Lewandowski, 11, of Immaculate Conception, said listening to the officers and seeing the totaled car reinforced what he had been taught about not drinking or doing drugs.

“Never do drugs or any of that stuff,” Lewandowski said. “Never drink and drive.”