Salem High School is in trouble!
Gangs threaten the safety of students and the peace of the community


Salem High School, located in southern Illinois between Jonesboro and Carmi, is famous for its willingness to involve students in the democratic processes of governing the school. The school has long maintained a Student Judiciary Board to adjudicate certain claims about students' infractions of discipline policy in order to uphold the standards the school has developed to ensure everyone an equal opportunity to learn. The Student Judiciary Board consists of four seniors and one other representative for each class--seven members in all. The Student Judiciary Board examines a variety of cases: cutting classes, insubordination, vandalism, fighting. If a student has been referred to the Dean's Office for some infraction, a Dean can offer the student the choice of the Dean deciding the case or referring it to the Student Judiciary Board. Approximately 25% of the cases go to the Student Judiciary Board.

Current Situation:

During the current school year, Salem High has been troubled with an increase in street gang activity. There are two predominant gangs in the area: The Demon Renegades and the Savage Shadows. Many parents, teachers, and administrators are concerned about the gang activities. There have been fights in and around school. There is some gang recruiting in school. The gangs are involved in some drug dealing in the community. The school has been vandalized occasionally. Some students feel intimidated and worry that the school can no longer provide a safe environment for learning! There has been criticism from students and from community members that the school has not done enough to root out gang members and gang activities at Salem High, and consequently, the chance for learning has decreased.

Recently, the members of the Student Judiciary Board have decided to take a pro-active role in addressing the gang problem. They propose to move beyond their usual role of adjudicating cases that come to them and have called for a series of hearings to help identify all gang members in the school. They reason that the first step in solving the problem lies in the identification of those students who can cause trouble. They also know that whereas gang members can easily disguise their gang affiliation and activities from adults, it is easy for their peers to recognize them.

Salem High School will conduct a series of hearings of the Student Judiciary Board. Six students have been identified by the administration as potential gang members (in other words, these six students have have somehow led the administration to believe they are involved with gang activity and/or gang members). It is the job of the Student Judiciary Board to interrogate each of these students and determine if they are a member of a gang or if they can identify anyone who is.

By the end of the hearings, the administration expects to see a conclusive list of gang members and those students will be expelled in order to maintain Salem’s safe and effective learning environment.


What values or ideals are at stake here? What will the board be trying to preserve through its actions?

The Hearings:
The Board’s Responsibilities
The overall goal for the Board is to identify as many gang members as possible. The Board has a file on each witness. The information in the file will suggest the types of questions to ask. Any witness can be recalled one time. TO PREPARE: The Board should read the student files, determine the order of witnesses, and create several questions to ask each of them.

The Witness’s Responsibilities
Even though several students are preparing the responses for the witness, they will pick one representative who will actually play the role in the hearing. At some point in the proceedings, another representative of a group might assume the same role of a character. The goal for the witness will change with each character. Some witnesses will be eager to provide information; others will be reluctant to answer any questions.
TO PREPARE: Witnesses should look over their personal role description, their grades and school records, and anticipate questions that may arise from the board. They should also figure out how they will answer all of those questions in character. Additionally, witnesses should create a back story for their characters including family, housing, location, activities, personality, friends, likes/interests, etc. that fits within the parameters you’ve been given.

The Media’s Responsibilities
The media will be covering this trial; hence, they will be allowed in the courtroom. The media will prepare a report each day and present it the next day before the trial begins. Their job on the first day, however, is to set the tone for the proceedings by summarizing the problem and giving their spin on the situation. Remember media often puts a “spin” on things and can shape the way a trial progresses. The media will keep a close record of the day’s proceedings and can ask questions of the witnesses after the board’s questions have been exhausted. TO PREPARE: The Media should review all of the students’ records, anticipate order of witnesses, types of questions, and prepare 5 questions they believe should be asked of every witness.

Procedure for the Hearing:

1. The hearings begin each day with an opening statement from the chairperson of the Judiciary Board. The chairperson will denounce gangs, describe their threat to the school and community, and explain the purpose for the hearings.

2. The Judiciary Board will call an individual to testify. Members of the Judiciary Board will ask the witness a series of probing questions. After the Board members have exhausted their questions, they will dismiss the witness. If any of the Judiciary Board members thinks that he/she has sufficient evidence that the witness has any gang connection, the Board member will make a denunciatory speech against this person.

3. After the first day, a representative from the media will read aloud a report on the previous day's proceedings. The media might also wish to offer an editorial.

4. At the end of each day, each person will write response to the trials in his/her Judiciary Board Hearing log.

5. After all the witnesses have testified, you will be asked to participate in a group discussion in order to share some of the observations that you made in your log. The questions that you need to prepare some ideas about follow:
  • To what extent is this type of inquiry justified when attempting to maintain order? Consider the VALUES the board was trying to preserve, as well as the outcome of the trial…
  • To what extent did the board adhere to the criteria we developed for justified behavior?
  • To what extent have we been able to maintain the ideals of Salem while trying to seek out truth without trampling on the rights of the individuals in this class?

    • SUPPORT your answers with direct evidence from the trials (your notes)