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MDNC Civics Initiative

Welcome to the MDNC Civics Initiative!

What is it?

The Civics Initiative provides an opportunity for middle and high school students to participate in hands-on programs at our federal courthouses in Greensboro and Winston-Salem and, if schedules permit, at schools.  These programs are designed to broaden and deepen the students’ understanding of the roles of the federal judiciary and the Constitution in their lives and communities. 

How can schools participate?

Judge William L. Osteen, Jr. and Laura Dildine, career law clerk to Judge N. Carlton Tilley, Jr., manage the Civics Initiative.  Please contact Laura Dildine at ncmd_civics@ncmd.uscourts.gov for more information and to schedule a courthouse or school visit. 

Who can participate?

We welcome any schools throughout the Middle District of North Carolina.  The programs are designed for middle and high school students who have a basic knowledge of the Bill of Rights.

What programs are offered?

Courthouse visits include an introduction to the federal judiciary and the Middle District of North Carolina and career discussions with available volunteers including judges, Asst. U.S. Attorneys, Asst. Federal Public Defenders, U.S. Probation Officers, Deputy U.S. Marshals, and other court staff.  In addition, students participate in a hands-on program of the teacher’s choosing:

  • Fourth Amendment:  This program teaches the students how their Fourth Amendment rights apply on public school grounds.  After the judge teaches the students the basics of the law, students work in small groups with volunteer attorneys and summaries of cases in which students and their belongings have been searched on public school property.  The judge then holds mock hearings in which the students act as attorneys to argue whether or not the evidence found on the student should be excluded from trial.
  • Fifth Amendment:  This program teaches students the application of Miranda rights in various circumstances.  After the judge teaches the students the basics of the law, students work in small groups with volunteer attorneys and summaries of cases in which defendants have made incriminating statements before they received their Miranda warnings.  The judge then holds mock hearings in which the students act as attorneys to argue whether or not the statement should be excluded from trial.
  • Sixth Amendment:  This program introduces students to state and federal public defenders who are appointed to represent indigent defendants.  After talking with and learning from the public defenders, students participate in a dramatic reading, taking on the roles of actual participants in Gideon v. Wainwright and In re Gault.
  • Federal Sentencing:  This program teaches students about federal sentencing law.  After the judge teaches the students the basics of the law, students work in small groups with volunteer attorneys and a fictional pre-sentence report for a fictional defendant.  The judge then holds a mock sentencing hearing in which the students act as attorneys to argue for an appropriate sentence.

We have also designed programs alongside teachers who have special requests.  For example, students in a high school civics class were assigned to write papers on a contemporary Supreme Court case involving the First Amendment.  Prior to the students’ completing their papers, their teacher requested a program to teach the students about the First Amendment and laws regulating speech. 

How many students can participate?

These hands-on programs can accommodate up to approximately 40 students.

How long are the programs?

A courthouse visit generally requires at least 2 hours, not including the time it takes students to pass through security.  If time is more limited, we can design a program to accommodate the teacher’s request.  We are mindful of the need for students to return to school in time for lunch after a morning visit or in time for the bus or extracurricular activities after an afternoon visit.

What does it cost to participate?

The court does not charge a school to participate in the Civics Initiative.  However, teachers should consult with their school systems for information about the cost of substitute teachers and bus transportation.

How should students prepare for a courthouse visit?

Most students have never been inside a federal courthouse and do not know what to expect or what is expected of them.  To prepare students to visit our Greensboro and Winston-Salem courthouses, we ask that teachers review certain information with students prior to their arrival.  A printable pdf with this important information is available here.

How did the Civics Initiative start?

In March 2017, our court launched its Civics Initiative as part of the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts' nationwide civics outreach program for middle and high school students.  Since then, we have worked with nearly 800 students from elementary, middle, high, and law schools in the Middle District of North Carolina.