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Thomas & Mack Legal Clinic

March 10, 2014

A Laboratory for Scholarship: Research Probes Efficacy of Kids’ Court School

Our dual degree and law students are conducting empirical research on the Kids’ Court School that could potentially add significantly to the literature in child witness research. UNLV’s innovative Kids’ Court School educates children and youth about the judicial process, using a standardized, empirically based curriculum. The program seeks to maintain the integrity of the legal process, to conduct ongoing research aimed at improving the capabilities of child witnesses, to minimize the potentially traumatic effects of the courtroom on children, and to serve as a training program regarding best practices for educating children about the judicial process. To date, 849 children and youth have benefitted from the Kids’ Court School, and over 60 law students have participated as teachers and mock trial participants.

UNLV’s dual degree candidates are examining the effect of Kids’ Court School on different actors and in varied settings. For her dissertation Leslie Murdock, a dual degree (JD/PhD) student in law and educational psychology, examined the efficacy of a new curriculum she developed for Kids’ Court School to increase juveniles’ knowledge about delinquency proceedings. Over 100 youth between the ages of 11 and 17 participated in the study. Results indicated that the participants’ knowledge about delinquency proceedings was significantly increased after they were taught the curriculum. This curriculum can now be used for youth who are involved in delinquency proceedings to increase their knowledge about the process and potentially reduce the stress often associated with involvement in the judicial system.

Brittnie Watkins, another dual degree student in law and educational psychology, is examining how Kids’ Court School affects parents and attorneys. Previous research has shown that Kids’ Court School significantly reduces children’s anxiety about going to court, so Brittnie is examining how the program effects the child’s parent(s) and attorneys, who are often anxious or reluctant about the child’s testifying in court. Does the Kids’ Court School help reduce their anxiety and concern? Brittnie will be looking for an empirical answer to this question, among others, to help assess the value of this model program.

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