The courtroom is stressful enough for an adult; imagine the anxiety it causes a child. Whether a witness, victim, or youth charged with a crime, any child participating in legal proceedings often becomes so nervous that it affects his or her credibility.
The UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law recently partnered with The National Judicial College (NJC) to expand to Northern Nevada its Kids’ Court School, an award-winning program that educates children about the court process.
Kids’ Court School founder and professor Rebecca Nathanson and Boyd School of Law student Samantha Rice, who coordinates the program, traveled to Reno last semester for an event to officially launch the program.
“I’ve worked with the Kids’ Court School for the past three years,” said Rice, who graduated in May. “It’s been an incredible experience to see children gain confidence before they testify in court. I’m excited to bring this established program to Reno to help children and youth of Northern Nevada.”
The Kids’ Court School was established in 2002 and has since served more than 1,000 Southern Nevada children from its home at UNLV. Now, children ages 4 to 17 in Northern Nevada can benefit from the program, too. The Kids’ Court School in Northern Nevada is located at the NJC, which is housed on the UNR campus.
“The NJC is pleased to partner with the Boyd School of Law to host a program that will instill more confidence in children and hopefully improve the quality of justice in Northern Nevada,” said NJC President Chad Schmucker.
The free program consists of two one-hour sessions. During the first session, children are taught about the pretrial and trial process including courtroom processes and the roles and functions of courtroom participants. The second session, which takes place shortly before the trial begins, covers ways of reducing nervousness while testifying, such as deep breathing and positive self-talk. It also includes a mock trial, which takes place in state-of-the-art model courtroom facilities at Boyd and at the NJC.
The program has earned national attention as a model for children’s courtroom education, including Harvard University’s Bright Idea award in 2012 and a U.S. Senatorial Commendation in 2015.