LAKE TWP. One of Lake High School’s mock trial teams recently advanced to regional competition. While the team won individual awards, it did not advance to state competition.

This year there were three teams, Blue, Red and White. The Blue team won at the district competition and advanced to regionals. Mock trial team advisor Teresa Miller said there were 23 students this year in the program.

“Our Blue team won at the district level which includes schools from Stark County competing,” Miller said. “We went on to regionals which teams from around Northeast Ohio compete and came within two points of winning which then we would have gone on to compete at the state level.”

The Blue team won Outstanding Attorney for both the plaintiff and the defense. Bellas Marshall won for Outstanding Witness. Krista Wheeler won Best Defense Lawyer and Brooke Pendergrass won Best Plaintiff Lawyer.

“This year was one of the best performances by my students,” Miller said. “The hard work and ownership the students put into their performances this year was second to none. They organized practices that I didn’t even know about. It’s been one of the best teams I’ve ever had. We lost by two points on the plaintiff side and won the defense side. The defense side’s performance was close to flawless.”

Two years ago, Lake had teams advanced to state competition.

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 students 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, Principal 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.

Miller couldn’t say enough about her teams this year.

“The students on all three teams had great student leadership and there was a lot of team camaraderie,” she said. “The students really liked each other on all three teams and I think that made a big difference.”