4-H Advocacy Club – First meeting of the school year!

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Don’t forget TODAY is the first meeting of the school year! 

Join the 4-H Advocacy Club today at the Pioneer Community Center at 4 p.m. – 5:30 p.m.   (4:30 p.m.  for Clewiston students arriving by bus).  If anyone needs a ride from Labelle today, please call me at 239-239-0222 and I will pick you up at the Labelle 4-H building at 3:30 (must have parent’s permission to ride with me).

Today’s we will have a brief introduction for new members, applaud our returning members, and kick the year off with opening statements.

While involved with the 4-H Advocacy Club, you will learn about our court system, advocacy, public speaking, as well as compete with other advocacy groups throughout Florida. Sharpen your professional and social skills and understand the importance of self-responsibility in the community, which will transfer to real life situations.

The 4-H Advocacy Club is recruiting juniors 8-10 years old, intermediate 11-13 years old, and seniors 14-18 years old for mock trial practice, witnesses, jury, and advocates.   Parents are also welcome to participate as jurors and witnesses.  Meetings are twice a month held on every other Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. – 5:30 p.m., at the Pioneer Plantation Community Center. For more information contact Mary Cosmo by email at mary.cosmo@law.fcsl.edu or cell 239-233-0222.

When the enforcement of Florida’s law goes bad—the people of Florida pay.

“A Florida teen is facing adult felony charges after she caused a small explosion on school grounds in what her friends say was a science experiment gone bad.  Kiera Wilmot, 16, was accused of mixing household chemicals in a water bottle, causing the top to blow off and producing smoke, WTSP.com and TheLedger.com reported.  No one was hurt, and Bartow High School property was not damaged.  Wilmot was charged with possessing or discharging a weapon on school property and discharging a destructive device.  She was also expelled and will have to pursue her high school degree in an expulsion program.  Students told WTSP.com that the incident was due to a science experiment that went awry.  The school principal, Ron Pritchard, said he thinks ‘Wilmot was just curious about what would happen when the chemicals were mixed and was shocked by the result. She is a good kid,’ he said.”[1]

Under Florida Statute 790.001(4)(a), a “Destructive device” does not include: a device which is not designed, redesigned, used, or intended for use as a weapon.  Clearly, this student’s science experiment was not “designed, redesigned, used, or intended to be used as a weapon.”  The principle’s own statement shows that the girl “did not ‘intent’ for her science project to explode.”[2]  So why is this minor being prosecuted for a science project gone bad?  This is clearly not the way to encourage our young science majors.

Under Florida law the “possession or discharge of a destructive device[3] on school property occurs when the “person who exhibits a…destructive device…except as authorized in support of school-sanctioned activities.”  The real question is, was this a school sanction science project?  The principal’s statement seems to resolve this question by calling it “a science project.”

Even if the this was not a “school sanctioned project” the statute clearly expresses a required intent in the very definition of a “destructive devise,”  as designed to be discharged.  The Florida court will likely interpret the statute most favorably to the accused and conclude that the discharge of a destructive device…the device must explode [and] function as it was intended.[4]

This student’s science experiment was merely that, an experiment.  The plain meaning of an experiment is that of understanding cause and effect, without any intentional outcome.

Although, there are many that would love to ruin someone’s life merely because of fear.  There must be a limit to the absurdity of that fear.  If we begin to arrest and charge all creative minds because their science project has gone bad, we will find ourselves without any great scientist to further societal growth.

The real question is why this student was not being supervised during this science project.  Perhaps the principle and teacher should be liable for failing to supervise the student during a science project instead of placing the blame onto the minor who was under (or should have been under) the supervision of the state (school).

It is clear in the text of the statute that the Florida legislature never intended to prosecute a child when, under the supervision of the state (school) for a science project that goes bad.  This is what happens when we fail to encourage creative thinking and teach critical reasoning to our children, they simply grow up to enforce absurdity and allow fear to control them instead of knowledge.


[1] ABA Journal, Teen faces felony charges in exploding water bottle incident; was it a science project gone bad (2013) available at, http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/teen_faces_felony_charges_in_water_bottle_incident_was_it_a_science_project/

[2] Id.

[3] Florida Statute 790.115(1)

4-H Advocacy Club–Cruella Deville is Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!

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Picture from Left to right–Judge Sloan with Joseph Rourks as State Attorney; Samantha Bunting as Cruella Deville; Maggie Gacula as our Star Witness; Zeida C Rabelo as the Defense Counsel; Mary Cosmo 4-H Leader; and Mrs. Rabelo as the Jury Forman.

The 4-H Advocacy Club’s visit to the Hendry County Courthouse was a huge success.  The kids got a complete tour of the courtroom, the jury deliberation room, and even checked out the holding cells.

The kids participated in State v Deville mock trial, which the infamous Cruella Deville was charged with 1 count of puppy napping.  Joseph Rourks was an outstanding prosecutor, who hit a home run with his strong closing statement.  Zeida Rabelo as Defense Counsel put on a great defense for the defendant, the infamous Cruella Deville (played by Samantha Bunting).  In the end, the star witness (played by Maggie Gacula) testified with telling evidence, which resulted in a jury verdict of guilty.  Cruella Devilla was convicted and sentenced to 30 months of jail and 30 months of probation.  Mrs. Cruella Deville was then escorted out of the courtroom in handcuffs and shackles into the holding cell where she still awaits transport.

A special thank you to Judge Sloan, Court Bailiff Mrs. Barbara, and Assistant State Attorney Hamid Hunter for assisting with the 4-H Advocacy Club’s first mock trial.  YOU kids truly made the 4-H Advocacy Club a success!  I am so proud of all of you!   Thank you to all of your efforts.

8th grader arrested over NRA t-shirt – BizPac Review

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An 8th grade student in West Virginia was arrested and taken to jail for wearing a National Rifle Association (NRA) t-shirt to school.

Jared Marcum had no idea the trouble that awaited him as he got dressed for school on Thursday morning, or that his pro-Second Amendment shirt would launch a fight over his First Amendment rights, the local CBS affiliate reported.

“I never thought it would go this far because honestly I don’t see a problem with this, there shouldn’t be a problem with this,” Jared told WOWK-TV.

His t-shirt has an image of a gun printed on it and that was enough to get him suspended from Logan Middle School, arrested and facing two charges, obstruction and disturbing the education process.

Jared’s father Allen Lardieri had to rush from work to pick his son up from jail over something he says was blown out of proportion, according to WOWK-TV.

“I don’t’ see how anybody would have an issue with a hunting rifle and NRA put on a t-shirt, especially when policy doesn’t forbid it,” Lardieri said.

As noted in the report, the school’s dress code policy prohibits clothing that displays profanity, violence, discriminatory messages and more but nowhere in the document does it say anything about gun images.

via 8th grader arrested over NRA t-shirt – BizPac Review.

5 Year old threatened with 2 week suspension for playing with legos…..Yes, it’s only a lego.

I am appalled a the school official’s explanation that “they are just trying to create a culture of respect.”  WHAT???  Are we teaching our kids to accept that insanity is the norm?  What about teaching our kids reasonability and how to tell the difference.

Teaching a child to fear simple play is tragic when play is now confined to “appropriate ….Lego play.”  Really???

I understand that what happened in recent events has many people up in arms (no pun intended), but to take something so tragic and make it even worse by taking it to a level of absurdity is truly a miscarriage of justice to our own children.

We should be teaching our children the concept of reasonability instead of insanity!

FCSL Students assist poverty lawyers respresent poor americans

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The Florida Coastal School of Law Public Interest Research Bureau (“Research Bureau”) is a student volunteer research service that provides free legal research to lawyers working for poverty law organizations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Carolina.

The Research Bureau’s mission is to aid lawyers representing the poor and thus help make equal access to justice available to indigent clients in underserved communities. The Research Bureau allows students to learn critical writing and research skills and use the law to do good. Students assist poverty lawyers with critical research that may help a family from losing their home, stop an abusive debt collector from harassing a family, obtain disability benefits for an impoverished person, prevent an entire family from being evicted, or obtain due process for a poor person at risk of losing a public benefit.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email Bray Natalzia, chief managing editor for FCSL’s Public Interest Research Bureau at Brandy.Natalzia@law.fcsl.edu.  

Adversity or Burglary? Texas Man Convicted In Bizarre Squatting Case

JONATHAN TURLEY – Published 1, November 16, 2012

David Cooper, 26, is an example of how dangerous a little legal knowledge can be. The Texas man was arrested after squatting in a $405,000 Arlington home after the family left for Houston so that the mother could receive cancer treatment. Cooper said that he read about adverse possession in the law library at Southern Methodist University. He drew up an affidavit stating that he was asserting ownership by adverse possession and that was enough during an initial visit by the police. When the family arrived, however, the police finally put an end to the claim and criminally charged him with felony theft and burglary. His wife, Jasmine Williams Cooper, was charged with burglary. A jury convicted Cooper but acquitted his wife (after Cooper insisted that she did not stay at the house with him).

Read the full story via Adversity or Burglary? Texas Man Convicted In Bizarre Squatting Case « JONATHAN TURLEY.