Long Arm of the Law Reaches into Local Classrooms
Friday, May 1 2009
May 1, 2009
Photo is available at www.today.uidaho.edu/PhotoList.aspx
Written by Donna Emert
MOSCOW, Idaho – University of Idaho College of Law students are teaching high school juniors and seniors about their rights and responsibilities as outlined in the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights that amends it.
“The discussion raises controversial issues, but every class focuses on the Constitution, particularly the Bill of Rights,” said law student Heidi Tolman, who will complete her juris doctorate program next spring. “It introduces the idea of civic ideals and gets the students involved.”
The program was initiated by the college’s Public Interest Law group three years ago. This year, Tolman and 19 other law students took advantage of the opportunity to share their knowledge in nine government and history classrooms in Moscow and Lewiston high schools. The program helps law students meet the 40 hours of pro bono service required for graduation.
“I used to be a high school government teacher, so when I got here I thought, ‘I want to take that on,’” said Tolman. “The high school students want to know what their rights are in the classroom and outside of school. When the law is applied to their own lives, they are fully engaged and ask interesting questions.”
The law students have used case studies to keep classroom discussion focused on the law while high school students share their experiences and opinions, and look for ways to apply it.
As they prepare to explain the law and legal concepts to younger students, College of Law students hone their research skills and gain substantive knowledge. Tolman noted additional perks: “We learn how to explain the law in layman’s terms, and not in legalese, which most people don’t understand,” she said. “Law students can gain confidence in their presentation skills and really learn how to think on their feet when the students ask questions.”
Tolman understands the give and take of a classroom, and how the learning flows both ways. While teaching at an inner-city school in Las Vegas, Nev., she repeatedly told her students, “You can go anywhere you want to go.”
“I’ve wanted to be a lawyer since I was five, so I felt I was doing myself a disservice by not doing what I always wanted to do,” said Tolman. “So I started working in a law firm there. The attorney I worked for, John Aldrich, had attended the University of Idaho and suggested I apply here.”
As a law student, Tolman’s desire to help citizens understand their rights and responsibilities has deepened. “What I would like to see happen is to expand this outreach by offering street law classes, for all ages, focusing on practical law that impacts small claims courts, consumer protection, land lord tenant disputes – all areas of the law – to help the community understand their rights.”
Tolman talks as quickly as she thinks, and clearly relishes the task of translating the complexities of the law. Not bad qualities in an advocate.
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 150 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu
Media Contact: Donna Emert, University Communications, (208) 640-1609, firstname.lastname@example.org
About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals, and competes in the Western Athletic Conference. For information, visit www.uidaho.edu