Law Day brings students to courthouse

Jennifer Kirk

There was a lot of excitement on the front steps of the Big Horn County Courthouse on the morning of Tuesday, May 15. A beloved para-educator was “arrested” in front of the fifth-grade classes from Basin and Greybull elementary schools.
But have no fear…it was all just pretend and done as part of Law Day presentation put on by local court staff, attorneys, law enforcement and legislators.
Organized by Kristen Schlattmann, one of the Big Horn Basin’s supervising public defenders and a long-time planner of Law Day presentations, the event was well received by local fifth graders and their teachers as a culmination to their studies on civics.
Schlattmann worked with the Big Horn County attorney’s office to present an engaging and fun presentation that allowed for lots of participation from the students.
They opened with the Pledge of Allegiance around the courthouse flagpole, then turned their attention to Basin Police Chief Kyle McClure, who, with the assistance of Lt. Mark Raymond of the Big Horn County Sheriff’s Office, “arrested” Bobbi Link, a para-educator from Greybull Elementary School.
As part of the program, Link was charged with passing a school bus while the bus was stopped and fleeing or eluding a police officer. The officers explained the process of someone being arrested to the students, who were then allowed to follow the officers to the Big Horn County Detention Center where they received a tour of parts of the facility as well as witness the “booking” process. Once everyone left the jail, they went to the District Courtroom where they were greeted by District Court Judge Bobbi Overfield. The students were then able to work with Schlattmann, Big Horn County Attorney Marcia Bean, and the Honorable Judge Overfield to put on a bond hearing. Deputy county attorneys Kim Mickelson and Jennifer Kirk were also on hand to assist. Several students had been selected by their teachers to serve as a student judge, a student prosecutor, student defense attorney and several student witnesses. After hearing testimony and argument, the students voted on whether Link should be released on bond or continue to be held in jail.
They had a rousing discussion on what they learned from the pretend court hearing, and they were very engaged in the process.
After the excitement from the day’s hearings, the students were also able to take part in a discussion about the role of the state and national constitutions, the roles and importance of each branch of the government and have a question-and-answer period with local officials.
Senator Ed Cooper of District 20 came and spoke to the students about the role of the state legislature and the work that goes into creating bills, budget, and policy. He spoke about issues facing Wyoming today and the importance of civility within politics. He encouraged the young students to be involved in their schools and to pay attention to the world around them.
Big Horn County Commissioners Deb Craft and Bruce Jolley also attended. Commissioner Craft spoke to the students about the work county commissioners do and how they set budgets and policy for the county, as well as supervise several county departments.
The morning’s presentations, discussions and tours were well received by the students, teachers, and court personnel. Law Day is an important opportunity to host or participate in discussions about law and its role in society.
Basin and Greybull have participated in many past programs, and there are hopes to extend it to Burlington, Lovell, and the home school groups in the future.