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VCLF, Constitution and Me
In the Spring of 2019, the VCLF inaugurated an interactive educational program called Constitution and Me (True Threats v. Pure Speech: Drawing the Line between Safety and Freedom). In this program — created by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Firdaus Dordi, VCLF’s Co-Chair of Education — high school students were given a hypothetical case involving issues of free speech, cyberbullying, and safety in the school environment. Armed with actual case summaries of Supreme Court cases, and with the guidance of volunteer judges and attorneys, students in six government classes at Monroe, Taft and Canoga High Schools participated in a spirited Socratic-style debate on the issues over a three-week period. The program culminated in a mock Supreme Court argument, where some of the students served as advocates and some as justices. The program was followed by an essay contest where students were asked to discuss their experience. VCLF awarded monetary prizes to the winning essayists.

The success of Constitution and Me was confirmed by teachers at all of the high schools involved. VCLF received comments that the students were fully engaged in the free speech debate and very proactive in their thinking about the issues. Of great significance, they grappled with how these sorts of events should be handled in real life. In the process, they developed their reading, speaking and analytical skills, gained additional experience in interpersonal and teamwork skills, and had the opportunity to interact with positive role models from the Valley legal community. The program materials were so well-received that at least one teacher started using them in all her government classes.

In addition to VCLF Board members, there were many volunteer judges and attorneys who attended training sessions and brought this program alive for the students. Participating judges in the inaugural program included Judge Firdaus Dordi, Judge Michael Amerian, Judge Diego Edber, Judge Theresa Trabor and Judge David Yaroslavsky. The law firm of Lewitt Hackman, with firm shareholder and VCLF Board member Kira S. Masteller as the point person, also contributed by making their office available for the training sessions, and providing food and parking.

Constitution and Me was presented again in Valley high schools in the Spring of 2020 (partly in person and partly via Zoom), and then again in the Spring of 2022 (in person). VCLF plans to present Constitution and Me once again in the 2023-2024 academic year with a new hypothetical case presenting free speech issues in the context of exam cheating allegations and social media harassment.

Constitution and Me is only made possible by the continuing participation of volunteer judges and attorneys and by the many donations received from the Valley legal and business community. VCLF is grateful for all the support!