By Dominique Rouge
Rachel Morris, a student in Georgetown University’s Street Law Clinic, stands in the middle of a classroom of high school students and asks them to stand up. She designates one side of the room as “yes” and another as “no” and begins to ask a series of questions such as:
“Is it okay for the police to enter Bob’s house if they smell marijuana?”
“Can the police arrest Bob if they received an anonymous tip that he is selling marijuana?”
“Does reasonable suspicion allow the police to arrest Bob?”
Rachel teaches at Anacostia Senior High in Southeast DC, which has an academic program specifically designed for students interested in legal issues. Georgetown Law students participating in the Street Law High School Clinic teach a two-semester elective course in practical law to students in fourteen high schools throughout DC —Rachel’s class is just one element of the students’ curriculum.
The Street Law program uses the law and legal scenarios to help high school students develop academic skills such as reading, writing, active listening, oral expression, problem solving, and analytical thinking. The program also dovetails with the high school civics curriculum.
Rachel engages the students by teaching practical applications of legal matters that they will find relevant. Although the students understand applications of basic legal terms like “warrant” and “reasonable suspicion,” Rachel comments that she hopes to improve the students’ ability to articulate their ideas. In Rachel’s case, she not only empowers students living in low-income communities by developing their legal vocabulary, but also exposes students to legal concepts and legal training they can apply in their communities and professional lives.