Friday, April 11, 2008
Student Senate and Moot Court
Politically, the country is currently focused on the presidential election. At CCHS, while the election is important, the political frenzy surrounds the active Student Senate and the Moot Court Competition. Venturing outside the discussions and required work of history class, these students challenge themselves to reach beyond what is expected to make the school a more safe, interesting, and energetic place to be.
Student Senate is a recently formed organization with elected officials from each grade. Votes are cast at the beginning of the school year, unlike the Student Government positions that are elected in the spring. While the president, vice president, secretary and treasurer play major roles in the school and do much of the fundraising, the Senate was put into place to act as a bridge between the students and the administration. Meetings are held every other Monday night at the high school, and any student is allowed and encouraged to attend. Any problem – from parking lot troubles to stolen gym clothes to having six tests the week before vacation – can be brought before the Senate and a solution will be found. According to head moderator and soon-to-be CCHS graduate Alina Meltaus, the Senate would love for more students to appear at these meetings in order to improve school conditions. This year especially, a lot of legislation has been passed, hopefully starting a trend of active student change at the high school.
“Senate has tackled a pretty wide range of issues in bills and resolutions this year,” Meltaus reports. She eagerly dives into an impressive list of subjects, such as improved bathroom conditions, free computers for low-income students (which has already caused a huge improvement in the METCO department) and requests for harsher punishment for the incredible increase in theft at CCHS in recent years.
Meltaus is especially excited about a recently passed bill that could make a huge difference in the school’s academic future. Possibly as soon as next spring, a student-written Program of Studies will be available. This means that the big orange packet of class choices that students dog-ear in the spring will no longer be stoic, informational descriptions. To go along with the basic information, students who have completed a class will be able to add their two cents. “Nightly readings expected” can instead be reported as “a lot of reading, but it’s always interesting,” or “readings are started in class which makes homework easier.” There is hope that these insights will encourage students to sign up for classes that challenge them, or perhaps stop them from signing up for something that is way over their heads.
Also considered this year were bills about “environmentally friendly initiatives in the school system.” There are no specifics yet, says Meltaus, but hopefully we will see a greener CCHS in the coming years. It’s ideas like these that are promoted by the students, ideas that might come from one freshman but, with some help from Student Senate, could influence how our school is run.
For those students more concerned with real-world political battles, CCHS’s annual Moot Court competition is a great option. Created in 1995 by CCHS history teacher Dennis Cleary, Moot Court begins with sixteen teams of two students each, competing in a single elimination bracket tournament until two teams remain. These four students will argue their positions on a final case before Massachusetts State Court judges on May 21.
For each hearing, judges Samantha Fox-Morrow (social studies) and John Yered (math) choose particularly influential or interesting cases in American history. An example is Lee v. Weisman, a case in the early 1990s about a rabbi who performed a celebratory prayer at a public school graduation.
Moot Court is taken extremely seriously at CCHS. Hearings are held after school throughout the spring semester, running from about 2:15-3:15 p.m.. Any students, faculty, or parents who wish to attend are expected to be in the room at the beginning of the case, and not leave until the end. In the past, judges have reprimanded many audience members for not adhering to this expectation. While it has been argued that in a real courtroom no such rule is made, the classrooms and the Little Theater (also a venue for the hearings) at CCHS are formatted in such a way that the entrance is at the front of the classroom, causing a disruption that is not taken lightly by the students who have worked so hard on their position.
Beyond just voting or reading a few newspapers, CCHS students are becoming increasingly involved in the active thinking required for a future of strong political decisions. We will likely see some of these students advancing to organizations that help improve the city of Boston, or the environment, or the world.
Hopefully, those who attend a Moot Court case or read the student-updated Program of Studies will be inspired to get involved in the Moot Court competition and Student Senate, and learn more about how to make a difference. ∆
© 2008 The Carlisle Mosquito