Rep. Murphy gives Mt. Lebanon students a feel for law
The inaugural meeting of the Jefferson Middle School Law Club got an illustrious start in Mt. Lebanon, with a lesson in how laws are made taught by a lawyer from a Downtown firm and U.S. Congressman Tim Murphy.
Reed Smith lawyer Sasha Williams, parent of a seventh-grader at Jefferson, said she wanted students to understand how pervasive laws were in affecting their daily lives — from local ordinances to traffic laws, food-safety laws and the Constitution — so they could be informed in how to use them, how they are made and how they can be changed.
“Starting civics education is incredibly important,” Williams said. “The earlier it sinks in, the better they are prepared to be good citizens and to have the tools they need to make change.”
Using a hypothetical bill that would require students to take home 10 hours of homework every night, Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, last week demonstrated to about 16 students how to get bills introduced, gather co-sponsors and get their first hearings — or don't — in committees.
He talked about how citizens, even children like those in the law club, can petition their government; how presidential vetoes and votes to override them can work; and how he wants Congress to focus on mental health concerns in the aftermath of a number of deadly shootings perpetrated by suspects with mental health issues.
Murphy said he was impressed by the caliber of questions the students asked, including the topic of government Internet and email spying under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, whether such spying was constitutional and how it compared to Internet surveillance and censorship in China or the Middle East. Murphy voted to reauthorize FISA in September.
“This is a pretty good school. Maybe you don't need 10 hours of homework a night,” he told the students.
“I wish all Americans had the same knowledge of our Constitution that these students do,” Murphy said after the club's meeting. “I want them to understand they play a role in this country, even if they're not voting.”
Williams said the club eventually will visit the Court of Common Pleas and U.S. District Court, Downtown; will talk with other lawyers from Reed Smith; meet with Court of Common Pleas Senior Judge R. Stanton Wettick; and conduct a mock trial in Wettick's courtroom. It meets Tuesdays after school in the Jefferson Middle School library.
Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Add Matthew Santoni to your Google+ circles.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Old Economy in Ambridge reschedules its American Celebration event for Aug. 8
- Summer camps in Pittsburgh area move beyond arts, crafts
- Upper St. Clair School Board passes $72.52 million budget, raises taxes
- Jerome Bridge traffic signals removed in McKeesport
- Young achiever: Liam Ellis
- Mt. Lebanon to consider easing restrictions on borrowing
- Mt. Lebanon to consider new options for controlling deer population
- Freshmen can march with Bethel Park band in 2016-17