Judicial Branch Introduces
New Curriculum for High Schools on Connecticut Courts
HARTFORD - The Connecticut Judicial Branch,
in collaboration with the Justice Education Center, Inc. and the Connecticut Judges
Association, has developed an interactive curriculum for high school students, entitled Connecticut
Courts. The curriculum, which took almost a year to develop, will be introduced to
high school social studies teachers in three conferences this March, beginning on Tuesday,
March 13, 2001 at Danbury Superior Court.
"The purpose of the curriculum is to provide high school
students with a thorough understanding of the rule of law, the role of the courts in
society and the structure and function of the Connecticut Judicial Branch as it relates to
the two other independent branches of government," said Judge Joseph H. Pellegrino,
Chief Court Administrator of the Connecticut Judicial Branch. "The Judicial Branch is
pleased to provide this invaluable resource to Connecticut high school teachers."
The curriculum was developed to be easily incorporated into
high school government or United States history classes in seven, 40-minute segments or
three 90-minute blocks, with the option of unlimited expansion and exploration.
"The Connecticut Court Curriculum fills a void by making
available to teachers a comprehensive curriculum on our state court system, in an
informative and interesting format," said Theodore S. Sergi, State of Connecticut
Commissioner of Education. "In addition to providing students with information about
the administration of justice, this curriculum fulfills a part of the state's civics
The curriculum design team consisted of a Superior Court
judge, three high school social studies teachers, a University of Connecticut history
professor, two Judicial Branch staff professionals and one educational consultant.
"This curriculum will provide high school students an
understanding of a strong independent judiciary as an essential part of our government as
well as the knowledge of how our court system actually operates," said Judge John P.
Maloney, a member of the curriculum development team.
The curriculum fulfills critical components of the
Connecticut State Social Studies Curriculum framework.
"In terms of program goals, Connecticut Courts
encourages students to demonstrate knowledge of how people create rules and laws to
regulate the dynamic relationships of individual rights and societal needs," said
Melissa A. Farley, Executive Director of External Affairs for the Judicial Branch and a
member of the curriculum development team. "Connecticut Courts seeks to
develop civic knowledge of the court system in all students, including those who may feel
alienated or intimidated by the judicial structure."
In addition to the introduction of the curriculum in Danbury,
conferences will be held at New Britain Superior Court on March 19, 2001 and New London
Superior Court on March 23, 2001.
The all-day conferences will include morning presentations by
judges and other court officials, demonstrations of how to conduct a mock trial and
observations of a Superior Court proceeding and a criminal arraignment. In the afternoon
the teachers will be given an overview of the curriculum, a discussion of the lesson plans
and a viewing of one of two videos.
That video, The Case of Michael T., is a fictional
account of a domestic violence case in which a young man (Michael T.) is accused of
assaulting his high school girlfriend. The film follows Michael through the judicial
process and the facts that are considered when determining whether to grant the defendant
the Family Violence Education Program, a pre-trial diversionary program or schedule the
defendant for trial. At the end of the video, the students are asked to decide whether to
grant the defendant admission into the pre-trial diversionary program or schedule him for
"Connecticut Courts was not designed to deliver
traditional lectures and elicit simple responses to traditional questions," said
Susan Hoffman Fishman, an education consultant contracted by the Justice Education Center.
"Special care was taken to ensure that the work would be intellectually stimulating,
but also engaging for the students. The curriculum includes a variety of innovative
classroom activities and provides two videos for classroom use."
When the draft of the curriculum was completed after a
6-month development process, the Judicial Branch invited high school social studies
teachers from around the state to preview the lessons and provide comments and suggestions
to the development team.
Over 40 teachers attended the focus group session and many of
their suggestions were incorporated into the final curriculum product.
"These units will be fabulous additions to any
curriculum on government," said Stephen Armstrong, Social Studies Chairperson,
Manchester High School and a member of the design team. "I recommend them to any high
school currently creating a civics class, or who already has one. These units place the
judiciary "first", which is something most studies of government do not
In addition to Armstrong, other members of the Curriculum
Design Team are: Catherine Cerrina, Law-related education and Social Studies teacher,
Manchester High School; Sandra Clark, History and Social Studies teacher at Hill House
High School in New Haven; Melissa A. Farley, Esq., Executive Director of External Affairs,
Connecticut Judicial Branch; Susan Hoffman Fishman, Education Consultant to the Justice
Education Center, Inc.; Dr. Larry Goodheart, Associate Professor of History, University of
Connecticut; Hon. John P. Maloney, Superior Court judge since 1981; JosÚ RenÚ Mart¨nez,
Community Outreach Coordinator, External Affairs, Connecticut Judicial Branch.
For questions or information regarding media attendance at
the conferences, please call Ginny Apple, Manager of Communications, 860-757-2270.