A new, one-day civics course on the criminal justice system was introduced to high school seniors throughout the city of Kent last semester.
The course was launched by the County’s Department of Public Defense Misdemeanor Practice Director Twyla Carter and the Kent School District. All five Kent high schools participated, including Kent-Meridian – Washington’s most diverse high school.
“The first Civics Day events at all the high schools in the Kent School District was a huge success,” said Michael Papritz, Kentridge High School Social Studies teacher, co-curricular leader, and school district project manager for the one-day civics course. “The partnership with Twyla Carter has been amazing.”
Michael added that Civics Day is a great way for students to apply their learning in a realistic setting. 600 students participated in sessions that included student legal rights discussions, offender-staffed panel discussions, law enforcement- and lawyer-staffed panel discussions, and student-led mock trials presided by sitting District and Superior Court judges.
With Equity and Social Justice in mind, Twyla saw this not only as a great way to bring civics back into the classroom, but also to encourage more participation by youth in the criminal justice system as jurors and legal professionals.
“I wanted to educate young people about their rights and their civic responsibilities,” said Twyla. By design, she wanted to begin in the most color-diverse area of the County, and Kent welcomed her. “Dr. Watts, the district superintendent, was on board immediately once I pitched the idea to him.”
Plans for this semester’s Civics Day are already in place. According to Michael, the teachers felt it was a day well spent, and the students were totally engaged. He said, “Civics Day can really be a model for other high schools around the state that want to partner with their county personnel in the criminal justice system.”
“The first Civics Day curriculum included more than a year of planning,” added Twyla, “but plans are now in place to present this to the remaining 600 graduating students in May, and the district is committed to doing this with each future senior class.”
Twyla’s longer-term goal is to offer Civics Day to each school district in the County, and perhaps the state. She is already discussing possibilities with two other school districts.