Students from Boothville-Venice Elementary, Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Phoenix Elementary School, and South Plaquemines Elementary, learned about the judicial system by staging a mock trial involving a fictitious character, Johnny Smith, and his crime of Bringing Drugs On School Grounds.

The trials placed students in the shoes of the defendant, defense attorneys, prosecutor, witnesses, victim, bailiff, court reporter and jurors. Presiding over the mock trials were: 4th Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Joy Lobrano, Retired 4th Circuit Court of Appeal Judge Michael Kirby and 25th Judicial District Court Judge Kevin Conner. The program was started in the year 2000 and continued by District Attorney Charles Ballay.

The goal of the program, Project L. E. A. D., is designed to help students recognize and analyze potential consequences of the difficult decisions students face during adolescence and beyond. By focusing on peer pressure, responsibility, self-respect, self-control and self-esteem, Project L. E. A. D. gives students the tools necessary to avoid many of the pitfalls and traps that often lead to delinquent conduct and criminal activity.

The L. E. A. D. (Legal Enrichment And Decision – making) curriculum includes fact patterns in which the characters approach various moral and legal crossroads. These are designed to illustrate how easy it can sometimes be to step over the line without even being aware of it. These fact patterns provide an interesting basis for class discussion. Students read aloud the parts in these scenarios, thus preparing for the mock trial which is the culmination of the L. E. A. D. lessons.

Project L.E.A.D. is taught to every 6th grader in our parish by one of the five assistant district attorneys in the D. A.’s Office: 1st Assistant Robert White, Joseph Roberts, Jerry Lobrano, Mary Touzet, and Ned McGowan. Belle Chasse Middle School is taught in the Fall semester while Phoenix, Boothville, South Plaquemines, and OLPH are taught in the Spring. Topics included The Juvenile Justice System, Respecting Others, Drinking and Driving, Animal Cruelty, Dating Violence, BULLYING, Four Wheeling, Truancy, and Deterring Peer Pressure.

Project LEAD is supported with funds obtained through the Plaquemines Parish District Attorney’s discretionary funds.