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In-Person 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 Catherine C. Eagles, Leah Garland (deputy clerk), and Jasmine Little (career law clerk) manage the Civics Initiative.  To learn more about the Civics Initiative programs at the Greensboro federal courthouse, please email Leah Garland.  To learn more about the Civics Initiative programs at the Winston-Salem federal courthouse, please email Jasmine Little.

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, 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, and a courthouse tour. 

In addition, students participate in a hands-on program of the teacher’s choosing:

  • A School Search – Students’ Right to Privacy in School:  A federal judge introduces students to the federal judiciary and leads the students in a discussion of the 4th Amendment and how it applies in schools.  Students then work with criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors to prepare arguments for mock hearings in which students challenge the constitutionality of a search of their person and their belongings. A sample agenda for this program is available here.
  • Free Speech in Public Schools – from Tinker to Today:  A federal judge introduces students to the federal judiciary and leads the students in a discussion of the 1st Amendment and how it applies in schools.  Students then participate in a scripted oral argument for Tinker as attorneys and Supreme Court justices.  The program concludes with a discussion among the judge and students about students’ freedom of speech in student government, student publications, and student conduct outside of school.  A sample agenda for this program is available here.
  • You Can’t Use that Statement Against Me!  Miranda and the 5th Amendment:  A federal judge introduces students to the federal judiciary and leads the students in a discussion of Miranda and the 5th Amendment.  Students then work with criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors to prepare arguments for mock hearings in which students challenge the constitutionality of using the incriminating statement against the defendant.  A sample agenda for this program is available here.
  • Federal Sentencing – Sufficient but not Greater than Necessary:  A federal judge introduces students to the federal judiciary before students hear from U.S. Probation Officers, U.S. Marshals, and attorneys about their careers.  Afterward, the judge leads the students in a discussion about federal sentencing.  Students then work with criminal defense attorneys and prosecutors to prepare arguments for a mock sentencing hearing.  A sample agenda for this program is available here.

In addition, our virtual programs can be adapted for in-person courthouse visits.  We have also designed programs alongside teachers who have made special requests.  We welcome teachers’ ideas! 

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 1,300 students from elementary, middle, high, and law schools in the Middle District of North Carolina.