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Hatboro-Horsham Students Take on the Justice System in Mock Trial

Hatboro-Horsham High School students at the Montgomery County Norristown courthouse where they participate in a mock trial earlier this month.
Hatboro-Horsham High School students at the Montgomery County Norristown courthouse where they participate in a mock trial earlier this month.

Hatboro-Horsham students learned the justice system isn’t so black-and-white as often perceived. In two mock trials Jan. 8 and Feb. 4 seven students argued a fictitious scenario of whether the school where a student athlete was found dead from performance enhancing drugs was negligent.

“It was a great experience for students to see how the court system works,” advisor Kim English-Murphy said. “They were able to work with a lawyer, who is actually an alumnus of Hatboro-Horsham, and argue a point before a county judge. They had to do the research, prepare an argument and convince a jury of attorneys of their point. The skills they developed will help them throughout their high school and college career.”

The students went before a Montgomery County judge in Norristown to argue their points.  Students pretended to be attorneys and witnesses. This was the first mock trial competition Hatboro-Horsham has participated in and English-Murphy said the students enjoyed the experience. So much so, they are looking for more mock trial competitions going on in the spring and summer.

“The students loved this and are looking for any opportunity to participate in another,” she said. “I’m so proud of how they handled themselves in the court room and throughout the whole process. They dedicated themselves to this project for months and it was a valuable experience. While we didn’t move on from the county level, we did much better than we anticipated.”

English-Murphy said the biggest component and skill the mock trials provide students is the ability to work as a team. The entire process is team oriented because students depend on each other to fulfill their piece of the project, whether it’s researching, playing a part or making adjustments.

Other skills involved with the mock trials include public speaking, critical thinking and quickly adjusting to changes. It’s a lesson on reacting quickly to changes, and “learning to roll with it,” English-Murphy said.

“You learn how to deal with life,” she said. “People make mistakes and things don’t go according to plan, but it’s how you handle it that affects the outcome. Sometimes there’s nothing you can do to correct those issues and you just have to go with it.”

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