Local law enforcement teamed up with Sierra School in Placerville and Blue Oak Elementary School in Cameron Park for another successful round of Project LEAD — an innovative approach to crime prevention that teaches children that the choices they make today can affect their lives forever.
Through Project LEAD (Legal Enrichment and Decision Making), prosecutors from the District Attorney’s Office and officers from the El Dorado County Sheriff's Office, Placerville Police Department, and the El Dorado County Probation Department visit fifth grade students at elementary schools across the county once a week to provide an introduction to the criminal justice system and to promote positive decision-making skills. The hour-long lessons focus on the legal and social consequences of juvenile crimes such as truancy, illicit drug use, shoplifting and graffiti. Students engage in group discussions and role playing scenarios to become acquainted with common pressures that lead to delinquent conduct and to practice refusal skills to deter criminal activity.
In just two years, Project LEAD El Dorado County has reached over 150 fifth graders. The program started at Sierra School in Placerville and has expanded to Blue Oak Elementary in Cameron Park.
This round of Project LEAD with Ms. Gaesser’s class of Sierra School culminated in a mock trial held at the El Dorado County Superior Court in Placerville on May 18, 2017. The trial conducted entirely by students who played the role of the judge, prosecutors, defense attorneys and courtroom staff introduced hallmark concepts of justice such as the right to counsel and proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
After careful deliberation, the jury of fifth graders could not render a unanimous verdict in the trial of their classmate, “Tracy Smith,” alleged to have committed the crime of carrying a loaded gun. The “hung jury” took their role seriously, respecting the high burden of proof afforded criminal defendants.
Mrs. Hassey's class of Blue Oak Elementary School held their mock trial on June 1, 2017, using the same hallmark concepts of justice used by Mr. Gaesser's class. This jury found their classmate, "Tracy Smith", guilty of the crime of carrying a loaded firearm.
In taking crime prevention from the courtroom to the classroom through Project LEAD, local law enforcement remains steadfast to our goal to pursue innovation in everything we do to protect the people of El Dorado County.