Public Invited to Mock Trial that brings Judicial System, Dating Violence Awareness to Teens
Hays County Government Center, San Marcos, TX – February is Dating Violence Awareness Month and efforts to educate students about the dangers and legal ramifications of dating violence while providing them with a unique window into the workings of our country’s judicial system will culminate in a mock trial on February 25 at the Hays County Government Center.
A cooperative effort among the Hays County District Attorney’s Office, area District Judges, Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center, the Hays County Bar Association, Law Offices of Sarah K. Brandon, P.C., Judge Brenda Smith and Dripping Springs ISD, this year represents the fourth annual dating violence mock trial for Hays County. Some 120 DSISD students will participate as the victim, alleged perpetrator, lawyers and witnesses and serve on three separate jury panels, assisted by local legal professionals and experts in domestic violence issues.
On the heels of several widespread media stories about celebrities drugging their dates and domestic violence, the mock trial will underscore the mixed emotions and responses people have regarding both the causes of, and the remedies for, domestic and dating violence.
“This is an excellent opportunity for students to experience the workings of the justice system while learning the dynamics and warning signs of dating violence,” said Associate District Judge Brenda K. Smith, who is the judge of the trial. Judge Smith volunteers her own time throughout the year to work with the students.
“The Dating Violence Mock Trial is an incredible opportunity for all of our kids” said Retta Green, DSISD counselor. “It allows students to experience our country’s court system first-hand from a role where they are comfortable. What is even more valuable is the knowledge gained in regards to the prevalence of dating violence and how to help. I always love watching their faces when they hear the stories and witness the trial. It really brings the statistics they hear to life.”
Dripping Springs High School has a Dating Violence Awareness Advocacy Board, which is an entirely student-led organization dedicated to raising awareness of dating violence. Board President Insiya Aziz has organized school events to bring awareness to dating violence, including the “First Love Yourself” initiative, which teaches students to respect themselves and understand that they deserve to be treated well.
Marla Johnson, Executive Director of the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center said, “The Mock Trial has been a learning opportunity and a potentially life-saving event. I’ve been very impressed with the way the Dripping Springs High School students have embraced learning about dating violence. The support from school personnel has been amazing. The ultimate goal is to ‘Stop the Hurt’ from dating and domestic violence and the Mock Trial helps do just that. It is a very inspiring event.”
“I participated in the Dating Violence Mock Trial for the first time during my sophomore year as a witness,” said DSHS student Gabrielle Chavez. “Since then, I have taken on a larger role every year, and have always enjoyed the experience. This year I am the Vice President of the Dating Violence Awareness Advocacy Board and am an attorney for the mock trial. The mock trial allows students to learn about the judicial system through taking on the roles of attorneys, witnesses and jurors, but more importantly those ages 16-24 are the most affected by this issue. This program has inspired me to do work outside of the trial to raise awareness for dating and domestic violence and I am very excited to see how this program will grow over the years”.
Sheriff Gary Cutler, who has been a part of this program since its inception and strongly supports the event, said, “It is encouraging for me to know that today’s youth are so interested in the criminal justice system as our youth today are our criminal justice professionals of tomorrow.” Sheriff Cutler gives a presentation each year that dating violence is unacceptable.
At the end of the trial, the Hays-Caldwell Women’s Center will present an educational program on dating violence to further reinforce the need to recognize the danger signs and get help. Students raised funds through sponsorships to provide donations to the Women’s Center as well as to pay for t-shirts to raise domestic violence awareness.
Sponsors who eagerly answered the call to contribute to this cause including the Hays County Bar Association, Vaught Law Firm, P.C., Law Office of Milena Christopher, Law Office of Daniel O’Brien, P.C., Law Offices of Sarah K. Brandon, P.C., Hays-Caldwell Women's Center, Big Frog Custom T-Shirts & More of South Austin, Judge Brenda K. Smith, HEB Dripping Springs and Susan Curran Financial will be recognized at the event, on t-shirts and in event materials for their willingness to support this great program and its goals.
The mock trial is open to the public and will be held in a courtroom at the Hays County Government Center, 712 S. Stagecoach Drive, San Marcos, on February 25, 2016 at 9:00 a.m.
For more information, please contact the Law Office of Sarah K. Brandon, P.C. at (512) 477-4707.