We the Students ... Two Propel Charter Schools Offer Constitutional Law Class

Article excerpt

Jennifer Saint-Preux, a third-year student at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law, positioned her phone in front of her face and told the Propel Braddock Hills high school students in the constitutional law class that she'd be recording their mock argument.

The two students standing at the front of the room shifted their feet nervously.

"You'll see how much better you guys are later in the semester," Ms. Saint-Preux said.

The charter school students were arguing an appeal of a hypothetical scenario: A woman was apprehended and accused of stealing from a shop.

Delasia Dutrieuille, 16, of Braddock, argued that the woman walked out of the store with the merchandise but didn't intend to steal it because she left her child inside the store.

"She would've walked out with the baby if she planned on stealing," she said.

Tyler Gabor, 16, of Turtle Creek, argued that exigent circumstances existed in the hypothetical theft because the woman left the store without paying.

In the next pair of students to argue the case, Rikki White, 15, of Turtle Creek, argued "every theft should be treated equally."

Ms. Saint-Preux praised Rikki for "sticking to her guns" and saying "a theft is a theft is a theft."

This argument was an early example of how the Propel students are learning about the law in the constitutional law class, which is taught by Pitt law students as part of the Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project.

Propel is the only school in the area to host the Marshall- Brennan classes, but there are constitutional law classes taught at more than 25 high schools across the United States through the program.

Last year's constitutional law classes were the first at the Propel schools, and students were placed in the classes.

This year, 30 students enrolled in three elective classes held at two Propel high schools -- Braddock Hills and Anders Street in Munhall. …