Legal eaglets! Coney middle school debuts new mock-trial courtroom for students

Legal eaglets! Coney middle school debuts new mock-trial courtroom for students
Photo by Nina Cochran

These students got their day in court!

Aspiring legal eagles at a Coney Island middle school now have a brand new space to practice their arguments, after they and a neighborhood pol snipped the ribbon to open their learning house’s new mock-trial courtroom.

The facility inside IS 239, the Mark Twain School for the Gifted and Talented, will go a long way toward shaping the careers of Brooklyn’s attorneys of tomorrow, according to Councilman Mark Treyger (D–Coney Island), who allocated more than $179,000 in taxpayer dollars to build the courtroom.

“Learning in this space will inspire these students as they continue developing their public-speaking and critical-thinking skills,” Treyger said.

The funds — most of which Treyger secured as part of Council’s 2016 capital-funding allocations — foot the bill to transform a formerly abandoned classroom into a faux courtroom, complete with a judge’s podium, jury box, witness stand, and gallery.

All students in the Neptune Avenue school’s sixth grade class of nearly 500 will attend a class in the mock courtroom by the end of the year, according to teacher Darren Kessler, who uses the facility to teach his daily “Law and Justice” class — in which the youngsters practice arguing fictional cases — to rotating groups of about 30 students each.

Kessler also coaches the school’s debate team, whose seventh and eighth grade members will also use the space to practice public speaking during their weekly meetings, he said.

The students are thrilled to have a space to hone their legal knowledge and litigating skills that looks and feels like a real courtroom, according to the teacher.

“The kids kind of walked around in wonderment,” Kessler said. “I had a girl walk in, look up at the room and in amazement, and say, ‘This looks just like my father’s office.’ And her father is a judge.”

And the classroom-turned-courtroom will help all students who encounter it better understand the inner workings of the judicial system, he said.

“Just to understand the basic function of a courtroom, the function that it plays in society, how it works, the procedures for conducting a trial are so important,” Kessler said. “Understanding the importance of facts and evidence and fairness and justice — it’s such a valuable, basic skill for kids.”

Reach reporter Julianne McShane at (718) 260–2523 or by e-mail at jmcshane@cnglocal.com. Follow her on Twitter @juliannemcshane.
Law and order: Chiara Giardina and Chloe Nudelman debated in the new courtroom.
Photo by Nina Cochran