JACKSON TWP. Jackson High School recently saw one of its mock trial teams advance to the regional competition. While the team won individual awards, it did not advance to state competition.

This year, there were four teams – Purple, Gold, White and Black. The Purple team won at the district competition and advanced to regionals. Mock trial team advisor Matthew Marlett said he had 27 students in total this year in ninth through 12th grades.

“Our Purple team won at the district level which includes schools from Stark County competing,” Marlett said. “We went onto regionals which teams from around Northeast Ohio compete but didn’t make it to state.”

The Purple team did win Outstanding Attorney for both the plaintiff and the defense at the district and the regional competitions. Students also won for Outstanding Witness at the district competition. Rana Wu won best defense Lawyer and Jordan Herrmann won best plaintiff lawyer at both levels. Grace Sykes and Colette Jakubow won the outstanding witnesses at the district level.

“We did better than we did last year because we only lost the regionals by a few points this year,” Marlett said. “It’s the closest we’ve come to winning regionals in the past six years. The hard work the kids put into this is amazing. We meet two to three times a week after school starting in August and continue to practice through February. Plus, the students meet at other times on their own to practice.:

According to Ohio High School Mock Trial website, the 2020 Ohio Mock Trial Case – Rory Maldonado v. Varga, et al. – asks students to examine the First Amendment right to free speech. This case focuses on if/when it is permissible for a school to restrict student speech. A former Trillium High School student is suing the school and the principal, Blake Varga, for violating their First Amendment right to free speech.

Rory Maldonado was a senior at Trillium in 2019 when he organized a demonstration centered around the individual right to gun ownership. Rory worked with another student to plan the demonstration which originally included a march from the high school to nearby PawPaw Park.

After hearing talk of Rory’s demonstration and its supposed connection to a major food fight that took place, Varga warned the school that any students participating in the demonstration would be suspended.

In an effort to remove the school from the demonstration plans, Rory canceled the march from the school and instead instructed everyone to meet directly at PawPaw Park. Rory went through with the demonstration and was subsequently suspended from all Senior Week activities and banned from walking at graduation. This case is the civil trial in which Rory Maldonado is suing the school and Principal Varga for a deprivation of rights.