• SPRING 2008
  • Educating the Public about the Law



Leapholes Pilot Program

Leapholes book cover

The New Hampshire Bar Association (NHBA) invited several local middle schools to take part in a Law-Related Education (LRE) pilot project to help students achieve better reading, writing, research, and debating skills, while learning the value of the rule of law and the role of legal professionals in our society.

In January 2008, the NHBA provided the eight participating schools with copies of the book, Leapholes, as the cornerstone of the “Leapholes” pilot project. Leapholes, the first book targeted to young readers by national best-selling thriller author-attorney James Grippando, follows a middle school student who is having trouble with the law. With the help of a mysterious and magical lawyer, the student does legal research by zooming through “leapholes.” In addition to finding out about law through law books, the student also comes face-to-face with noteworthy people involved in our nation’s most famous legal cases, such as Rosa Parks and Dred Scott.

Schools in the program include public, parochial, Montessori schools, and a home school group of five students. The Bar Association coordinated with each school to have a volunteer attorney visit with the students after reading the book and all schools are required to submit a “culminating event” to outline how this visit would take place. Some of the submissions include skits, mock trials, listening to Martin Luther King speeches, and podcasts on the book.

“We have witnessed students really examining their rights as teenagers and the rights of others in society,” stated Leapholes participant, Elaine Binette, Timberlane Middle School, Plaistow, N.H. “They have talked at length about what justice means, how can we find evidence of justice in our world, and what examples in our history prove that justice is not always fair and equal. Using the character, Ryan, as a jumping-off point, students have been able to debate, form opinions, and learn to listen to a differing point of view. All essential skills for any person to have!”

“The best part of the pilot project has been our visits from Attorney Stephanie Zywien,” continued, Binette. “The students have enjoyed her input, and she has been a wonderful source of information. She is a natural with this age group. She genuinely seems excited to talk to the kids about the law and they respond in kind.”

The submissions will be judged by the NHBA volunteer, and the winning school will receive a visit from the author in May. The winning submission will be announced in May, on the New Hampshire Bar Association's Web site.

For more information on Leapholes, visit the ABA webstore.

"This book is a terrific way to introduce young readers to the legal concept of precedents and case law. The unique concept of ‘leapholes’ will appeal to anyone, young or old, who may enjoy experiencing important legal decisions through the eyes, minds and souls of the people who lived those historic events."ForeWord Magazine

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Insights on Law & Society—China and the Rule of Law

insite cover

As Beijing prepares to host the summer Olympics, the current issue of Insights magazine focuses on the rule of law in China. This issue explores the meanings of the rule of law in the context of modern China, as well as includes a first-person perspective on the changing laws and legal climate in China.

Features in this international issue of Insights include “China: Communism with Capitalist Characteristics,” “Workers and Labor Rights Activism in China,” and “Perspectives: Human Rights in China.” Insights—China and the Rule of Law also includes information on student study-abroad opportunities in China.

In addition to the features, this issue also includes teacher background information, resources, and activities for the classroom. Purchase the single edition at Reference PC# 49702000802 online at the ABA Webstore or call 800-285-2221.

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Common Core Report on the State of Education

A new report from Common Core finds that many of America’s high school students do not possess the basic knowledge they need to succeed in the world or to achieve their full potential as democratic citizens.

The report, titled Still at Risk: What Students Don’t Know, Even Now, shows that 25 years after the publication of the landmark study, A Nation at Risk, America’s children continue to demonstrate a stunning ignorance about basic facts of U.S. history and literature. Overall, the 1,200 17-year-olds surveyed earned a “D.”

The history portion of the survey reported that 73 percent of 17-year-olds could correctly answer relatively basic questions about major historical figures, dates, and developments in America’s history. However, other than Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech, no other single historical event or figure received more than or equal to 90 percent accuracy from the 17-year-old respondents. In addition, the survey also identified a consistent gap between respondents who have at least one college-educated parent and those who do not.

Some of the facts discovered in the report include

  • A third of respondents do not know that the Bill of Rights guarantees the freedom of speech and religion
  • Only 80 percent could define the idea of “checks and balances”
  • 20 percent of survey respondents didn’t know who our enemy was in World War II
  • More than a quarter think Columbus sailed after 1750
  • Nearly a quarter cannot identify Adolf Hitler, with 10 percent thinking Hitler was a munitions manufacturer

“It is easy to make light of such ignorance. In reality, however, a deep lack of knowledge is neither humorous nor trivial,” said Lynne Munson, Common Core’s executive director. “What we know helps to determine how successful we are likely to be in life, and how many career paths we can choose from. It also affects our contribution as democratic citizens.” Still at Risk is authored by Frederick Hess, the director of education policy at the American Enterprise Institute. Common Core is a non-partisan research and advocacy organization devoted to strengthening liberal learning in K-12 education.

Download the report at

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Insights Magazine End-of-Inventory Sale

Act quickly to receive four issues of Insights magazine for $14.99. This limited time offer includes the following issues: Youth, Rights, and the Constitution; The Rule Of Law; Women, Law, and Social Change: A Global View; A Colorblind Constitution? Then, Now, In 25 Years.

All issues include lesson plans and classroom activities that are relevant to your curriculum today. Order this special package online or call 800.285.2221 and reference PC# 2350245P. This offer is good while supplies last.

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Resource Guide for Teachers Package on Sale

This package includes four resource guides that were used as part of the National Online Youth Summit. Each guide includes a timeline of U.S. Supreme Court Cases, lessons and teaching strategies, additional resources, and terms and vocabulary.

Topics covered include ways that social issues meet in laws regulating indecent and obscene speech; the 1999 U.S. Supreme Court case involving an anti-gang ordinance against loitering in a group; historical, legal, philosophical, economic, and international perspectives on the death penalty; and the long history of inequality in the criminal justice system, as well as attempts to overcome such bias.

Purchase the package online for $19.99 or call 1-800-285-2221 and mention product code 4970129P.

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Law Matters, the news source for the law-related education (LRE) community

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Law Matters, which reports on developments, ideas, programs, and resources in the field of public education about the law, is disseminated three times yearly (fall, winter, spring) by the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Public Education.

Chair, Dwight L. Smith
Director, Division for Public Education, Mabel C. McKinney-Browning
Editor, Law Matters, Colleen Danz

The views expressed in this e-newsletter are those of the editors and have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association and, accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association or the Standing Committee on Public Education.

The American Bar Association is a not-for-profit organization.

Copyright ©2008 American Bar Association




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