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SPHS Teacher Selected for D.C. Institute, Meets With Supreme Court Justice back button

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2014 August (SPHS) — Spain Park High School teacher Ms. Libby Day had an incredible summer thanks to her participation in an exclusive professional development experience that, among other things, brought her in contact with a Supreme Court Justice.

Day was one of 21 teachers nationally selected to participate in the American Bar Association(ABA)/Federal Judicial Center’s (FJC) Ninth Annual Federal Trials and Great Debates in United States History Summer Institute for Teachers in Washington, D.C. This is an annual effort to enhance the knowledge and understanding of teachers of U.S. history, government, civics and law, according to information from the organization. Day teaches freshmen World History and is co-director of the Spain Park High School Law Academy.

Day and her counterparts worked with leading historians, federal judges and curriculum consultants on an intensive exploration of several federal trials through curriculum developed by the FJC and the ABA Division for Public Education. The institute was established in collaboration between the FJC and ABA in order to give teachers an inside view of federal court cases that never reach the Supreme Court but are significant. Teachers study the essential legal questions each case presents and develop strategies to incorporate judicial history into their school’s history and government curricula.

“The Summer Institute was a once-in-a lifetime experience, and I am honored I was selected to participate. I really enjoyed working with teachers from around the nation and brainstorming ways to incorporate judicial education in to a variety of curriculums. Working with legal scholars and historians to put landmark cases into a historical context was an invaluable learning experience,” Day said.

The landmark federal trials the teachers studied were: The Sedition Trials of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the Prohibition-era warrantless wiretapping case of Olmstead v. United States and the Vietnam-era Pentagon Papers Case. All three cases offer teachers an opportunity to explore some of the competing interests called into question in First Amendment cases and to understand how the legal system has sought to balance those interests.

One of the institute’s highlights was a visit to the U.S. Supreme Court, where teachers witnessed the justices release three decisions and met with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The teachers also attended a federal court trial, where they participated in a question-and-answer session with a U.S. District Court judge.

“Having the opportunity to talk with Justice Ginsburg was absolutely incredible, especially on the eve of such landmark Supreme Court decisions. Slate editor Dahlia Lithwick provided wonderful insight to the complicated dynamics between the court and the media, and watching expert testimony during the Blackwater trial was truly fascinating (especially for a mock trial coach),” Day said.

“This institute provides teachers with an extraordinary opportunity to gain insight and access to the federal judiciary through these important historical cases,” said Bruce Ragsdale, director of the Federal Judicial History Office at the FJC.

Mabel C. McKinney-Browning, director of the ABA Division for Public Education, said, “Teachers leave the institute with an informed view of the judiciary, an enriched view of its rich and vibrant history and a renewed sense of the importance of the courts as a co-equal branch of our government.”

The Federal Judicial Center is the education and research agency for the federal courts. Congress created the FJC in 1967 to promote improvements in judicial administration in the courts of the United States.

With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is one of the largest voluntary professional membership organizations in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.

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