Marks & Harrison attorney Joel R. McClellan recently volunteered with the Rule of Law/Students Day at the Capitol. The program seeks to provide students with an interactive experience about the importance of rule of law principles in their daily lives, and the functions of the state government.
The program was a collaborative effort among numerous bar groups and included The Virginia State Bar’s Young Lawyers Section (Richmond) and Diversity Conference, the Virginia Law Foundation, the Virginia Bar Association’s Rule of Law Project, the Communities in Schools Programs of the Richmond and Henrico Public Schools and the Richmond and Chesterfield Sheriff’s Departments. Approximately 300 middle and high school students were in attendance.
The program opened with perspectives on the Rule of Law provided by leaders from the various branches of government, including Virginia Supreme Court Justice Powell, Richmond Sherriff C.T. Woody, the Honorable Roger L. Gregory, Commonwealth’s Attorney Michael N. Herring and Delegate Jennifer McClellan. The students were then divided into two groups. High school students participated in a “Rule of Law/Fact Pattern Scenario” discussion and middle school students were taken across the street to participate in a presentation at the Supreme Court of Virginia. The students then switched places and the discussion and presentation were repeated.
Joel R. McClellan was a group leader for T.C. Boushall Middle School in Richmond, VA. Joel discussed the impact of the Rule of Law in the students’ lives. The students were then asked to act out different hypothetical situations in order to provide examples of how the laws could directly affect them. Joel stated: “This was a great opportunity to give back to the community. It was a truly rewarding experience to see the interest each of the kids showed in learning more about how the law is a powerful tool.”
These small group discussions are meant to provide an opportunity for students to meet with law enforcement, judges and lawyers in order to educate them not only on the importance of the rule of law but also how these laws directly affect their community.
One of the reasons why it is so important to help Richmond’s youth better understand the rule of law is that many young people are lacking a full understanding of how the various parts of government interact, and how they are relevant to their actual lives. In addition, many students are not educated on how their actions could potentially bring negative legal consequences. The program has been able to help at-risk students from continuing on a dangerous road by enlightening them on the function of law in society.
Rule of Law Day at the Capitol seeks to provide Richmond’s youth with an enriching experience that leaves them with a better understanding of why it is critical that we protect the rule of law as the foundation of the freedoms that we enjoy. By helping just one student to see how his or her life can be affected by the rule of law, that child’s future can be influenced markedly, and the community is improved to that degree.