By Laura Morales
On Friday March 4, the San Marin High School Mock Trail Team met at the Marin County Courthouse for one last go at People v. Woodson, a mock trial in which a student was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and with violating an anti-bullying and cyberbullying statute. The 19-student team had been asked by Tamalpais High School to help it prepare for the state competition, a request that the San Marin team could not refuse.
On March 26, Tamalpais High School finished fourth in the state.
As demonstrated by that goodwill gesture, San Marin had a tremendous Mock Trial season. The competition culminated on Feb. 5 where they competed against six other Marin County high schools and took third place.
Why is this important? Two years ago San Marin High School did not have a Mock Trial Team, and in two short years has risen to one of the top performing teams in the county.
Each year, outstanding performance awards have been awarded to San Marin students, with this year’s competition naming three San Marin students for individual excellence: Brad Walchli (prosecution trial attorney); Taylor Grant, (prosecution witness); Peter Slanina (courtroom clerk).
Mock trial competitions involve high school students arguing a case created for them in front of actual judges and attorneys in real courtrooms at the county courthouse in San Rafael. Every role, including attorneys, witnesses and courtroom personnel, is performed by a mock trial student.
The great thing about mock trial is that it involves so many different things. Not only does it expose students to the legal system, but they learn how to create logical arguments on their feet. They learn how to speak in public confidently. It is a combination of critical thinking, logic and theater all mixed into one.
The students do not receive school or community service credit for participating with the team, and along with the volunteer attorney coaches, give up their lunch breaks and many, many hours of their evenings and weekends for four months to prepare for the competition. Many students are on sports teams, music and drama as well.
At a time when the news around education is saturated with “what is not working,” it seems to be a good time to take a moment and acknowledge the outstanding accomplishments that are happening within our local schools and how students and parents in our community are making a difference.
Many thanks this year to attorney coaches Chris Sheron, Alan Charmatz and Jay Ruskin, and teacher sponsor Kimberly Laabs. A special acknowledgement to Chris Sheron who volunteered to establish the SMHS Mock Trial Team in 2010 and has provided leadership that has allowed the team to compete and win against some of the best schools in the county.