To commemorate Constitution Day, California judges visited classrooms and libraries statewide to deliver lessons on the three branches of government and the role of the courts. The effort supports a year-round drive to foster a better understanding of the judicial branch among students and teachers.
In San Bernardino County, Judge John Pacheco coordinated an event for Yucaipa High School’s Law and Public Safety Academy with the help of the Inland Empire American Board of Trial Advocates. Students were addressed virtually by a special guest, California Supreme Court Justice Martin Jenkins.
In Santa Clara County, the court coordinated a virtual event where judicial officers met with over 1,500 fifth graders in 21 schools to discuss the history and importance of the Constitution. The court also recorded a presentation on the Constitution for educators who couldn't participate in the live event. (View on YouTube)
Judges are encouraged to develop and participate in local community outreach programs under California’s Rules of Court. In several courts including Santa Clara, an internal committee maintains a strong relationship with local schools with events scheduled throughout the year.
“Our court is proud of our strong partnerships with the County Office of Education, and with the executive and legislative branches of government. Together, we have been able to connect with thousands of students, helping to educate our next generation of civic-minded leaders," said Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Audra Ibarra.
In Monterey County, ten bench officers visited classrooms virtually and in-person as guest teachers. Judge Marla Anderson visited a classroom at Highland Elementary, just four miles from her courtroom. Her colleague, Judge Sam Lavorato traveled to the Salinas Valley to visit with students at Sacred Heart School. Echo Valley Elementary, also in Salinas, received a visit from Monterey County Judge Vanessa Vallarta.
"When I switched to a bilingual presentation (English to Spanish), the students were immediately surprised, and much more engaged. They were excited and surprised to see that not only was I capable, but that I was interested in making sure they understood what I was saying by talking to them in their native language," she reported after her visit.
When classrooms moved to remote learning at the start of the pandemic, judges across the state stepped forward to bring their special skills to California online classrooms. Judges conducted more than 150 visits remotely for the 2020-2021 school term. Judges in Los Angeles and Butte counties translated Judges in the Classroom lessons to reach limited-English speaking students. Judges currently have access to lessons in English, Mandarin, and Spanish.
Visits to schools are available year-round. For more information, visit judgesintheclassroom.org