Mock Trial is a program at Santa Barbara High School where students have the opportunity to be a part of a rehearsed trial that teaches them about the legal system. Currently, there are eighteen students on the team for Santa Barbara High School, and it is divided into two separate variants. They have a defense team as well as a prosecution team. For each team, there are three student lawyer attorneys and four student witnesses for prosecution and defense. They also have a pre-trial attorney for both teams. The pre-trial attorneys meet before the trial starts and create an argument, based on the U.S. constitution, on whether or not evidence should be permitted to be used for the trial. During the trial, witnesses sit in the witness stand while being questioned by lawyers. The lawyers will then attempt to create an argument for or against the defendant. They currently practice for about four hours a week, however students begin writing their questions and memorizing their statements before practice begins. Their last competition occurred at the the Santa Barbara Courthouse, which is where they will met recently for their competition on the 4th of March at 9am. To prepare for trials, the team meets in Tanner Stark’s classroom on the SBHS campus on Tuesday afternoons and at the Santa Barbara courthouse on Wednesday nights at 6pm.
Stark is a social studies teacher who has been teaching at SBHS for two years. He is the “teacher coach,” which means that he is the one organizing the rehearsals, recruiting the students to be on the team, booking the courtroom for practice, as well as filling out all the paperwork for the team. When asked by principal Simmons if he would be willing to take on this role, he accepted because he thought it would be fun. Though Stark knew that as fun as this would be, like anything, it would come with challenges.
The SBHS team began later than most teams within our county, which means they had fewer practices before their first trial. They also didn’t have much experience, considering none of the coaches and most of the students hadn’t participated in a mock trial before. In spite of this adversity, Stark managed to get this team together at the last minute and put quite a lot of work into what they do. So much so that they can still compete against other teams in the county who have more experience and time on their hands like Dos Pueblos and San Marcos. The Mock Trial team already received four awards at the latest award ceremony for the preliminary competition. Stark takes pride in being able to recruit such a wide range of excellent students. He says that it has been fantastic working with them, explaining how happy and engaged they are. They love to coach the kids and show them how this profession functions. The team is dedicated, arrives for practice every week and meets outside of practices through zoom and emails. The team is always looking for new members and is open to any questions you may have, so be sure to contact Tanner Stark if you are interested.
Image credit: Sebastian Meza-Salcido
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