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Wake Forest Law Students Work with Students at Wiley Magnet Middle

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Wake 83By Kim Underwood

Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools

NOVEMBER 19, 2021 – On the afternoon of Thursday Nov. 18, two Wake Forest law students came to Wiley Magnet Middle to talk with students in one of Katie Rainey’s social studies classes.

“Know Your Rights” was the topic for the visit sponsored by the Wake Forest University School of Law Pro Bono Project, and, before the class with the eighth-graders was done, law students Cedric James and Sherry-Ann Joseph had explored First Amendment, Fourth Amendment and Fifth Amendment Rights with the students.

Subjects included everyone’s right to decline to speak to law-enforcement officials and how, if you don’t want to have them search your home, they can do so only with a warrant approved by a judge unless they believe someone is in danger.

James, who plans to become a defense attorney, and Joseph, who plans to become a prosecuting attorney, took a relaxed approach. They encouraged students to go ahead and ask a question if they didn’t want to wait until the official time for questions.

Know 62Questions that came up included whether law-enforcement could set up a camera pointed at your home and whether employers had the right to say you cannot leave work to express your freedom of speech. The answers were “yes” and “yes.” Private employers can make rules that, by taking the job, you agree to.

One intriguing point that came up during the discussion of limitations to freedom of speech was a federal law that prohibits staging a protest on the grounds of a post office. The important points James and Johnson kept returning to, though, were that you cannot be compelled to talk and you do have fundamental freedom of speech.

Afterward, students said it had been a good experience. One of those students was Brodie Majors.

“I learned how to defend myself when I need to,” Brodie said.

He also came away with deeper appreciation of what the Founding Fathers did for us by establishing those rights.

“They created America and made it awesome,” he said.

Raise 23Student Aaliya Siddle said, “I really liked it. It gave me more of an idea of what rights I have.”

One point it clarified for her is that law-enforcement officials can come into your home only with your permission or with a warrant unless there is a compelling reason, such as evidence that someone is in danger.

Student Santiago Gomez said that knowing more about what law-enforcement officials can and cannot do puts him more at ease.

“It makes me feel better knowing what rights I have, just in case,” Santiago said.

Principal Lisa Bodenheimer said she was glad the law students had come.

“It is so important that we begin as early as possible teaching our young people to understand and appreciate their rights and responsibilities as citizens,” Bodenheimer said. 

“Adolescents in particular are attuned to issues of equity and fairness so it is the perfect time to go more in depth with a study of the Constitution.” 

“Having students from Wake Forest Law School deliver this instruction is impactful for students because they are not the voices that are heard in the classroom each day. We appreciate very much the partnerships we have with the Wake Forest University community that allows their expertise and perspectives as young adults to be shared with our middle school students.”  

In addition to teaching students more about their rights, Rainey thinks that interacting with the Wake Forest law students might inspire some Wiley students to embark on a career in law.

Wiley 56Student Loraine Salazar plans to be one of those future lawyers. At the moment, she envisions becoming a prosecutor. Like the other students, Loraine appreciated having James and Johnson talking with them.

“It was very helpful,” Loraine said. “It gave me a more detailed version of what I needed to know.”

Rainey is a product of Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. After attending Speas and Vienna elementary schools, she headed to Wiley before going on to Mount Tabor High. She stayed in Winston-Salem to attend Salem College.

She chose to become a teacher, she said, because she had some very inspiring teachers. Her experiences with them made her want to do the same for others.

“I figured, if they could make a difference, I could make a difference,” Rainey said.  

Wiley 89Asked about her hopes for the session before it began, Erin Eberle, the Magnet Coordinator and Technology Facilitator at Wiley, said, “I hope they get an understanding of how it feels to be an American and how fortunate we are to have to have these rights protected.”

Students did indeed come away with that understanding.