Vermont Supreme Court visits Proctor High School
PROCTOR—On Wednesday, when the bailiff called, “All rise” and five Supreme Court Justices entered the courtroom, they were not entering a courtroom at all, but rather the stage of Proctor Jr/Sr High School’s gymnasium.
On the gym floor, more than 80 students from Proctor and Poultney High Schools stood to greet the Justices, who had come to give the students a taste of the inner workings of the highest court in the state.
Every fall, the Court goes “On The Road” for a day, historically to a superior court courthouse. This year, for the second time, the five Justices, along with each case’s prosecutors and defendants, traveled instead to a Vermont high school.
Last year, Woodstock High School hosted the Court. This year, the Court came to Proctor, in part because it’s the alma mater of Associate Justice Karen Carroll. With five chairs set behind long tables on the stage, the scene framed by thick maroon theater curtains and hovering above a giant ‘Phantoms’ banner, the Justices heard four cases in five hours.
Freshman Lacey French said the hearings added to the knowledge that she was already growing in her social studies class, taught by Benjamin Curtis. “Right now we’re doing a lot with government and the different roles,” she said.
Curtis, who coordinated the event, added extra material about the state judicial system to his curriculum so that his students would get the most out of the hearings.
“It’s an honor to have them here,” Curtis said. “I keep telling my kids, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see the Supreme Court in your gym.”
The hearing helped Baylee Ickes and Katarina Scribner, juniors at Poultney High School, prepare for Model Congress, which they’ll both attend in January. “I’ve never been that interested in law, but seeing how it all actually works has piqued my interest,” Ickes said.
Adding to the experience, the Justices filed back onstage in their street clothes between hearings so that the students could ask questions.
“Where’s the banner for the 1981 field hockey state champs?” Justice Carroll asked the crowd during one of these sessions. “Captain,” she said, pointing to herself as the students applauded.
When one student asked what inspired the Justices to study law, Chief Justice Paul Reiber said he was drawn by a sense of civic duty. “You don’t have to be a Supreme Court Justice to benefit from the rewards of giving back to your communities,” he told the students.
Curtis echoed this sentiment while speaking to The Reporter.
“If one or two of my kids decide to give back to their community, then I think my role as a social studies teacher has been fulfilled. If I can inspire them to become a judge, or become a member of the legislature, then I feel like I’ve done my job.”
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