Published: Fri May 23, 2003More than 630 Tennessee high school juniors will learn how the scales of justice balance during this year's American Legion Boys' State at Tennessee Tech University held May 25-May 31.
For the first time in its 39th year at Tennessee Tech, Boys' State will host the SCALES program, the Supreme Court Advancing Legal Education for Students, during which the Tennessee Supreme Court will hold a special session to hear oral arguments in two actual Supreme Court cases.
"The Tennessee Supreme Court believes that knowledge and understanding of the judicial branch of government are essential to good citizenship," Chief Justice Frank Drowota said. "The SCALES Project is designed to educate young participants about the system they will inherit."
Issues in the cases students will hear on Wednesday, May 28, include whether evidence — methamphetamine found in the door panels of a vehicle during a traffic stop — should be suppressed and whether a trial court can require a criminal defendant, as a condition of probation, to legally establish the father of her child. More than 11,000 Tennessee high school students have taken part in SCALES since the Supreme Court initiated it in 1995.
During the week, participants are immersed in learning state government by running a mock 51st state, Boys' State. They will organize political parties and establish city, county and state governments by election, complete with primaries and political campaigns.
"Boys' State promotes a respect for our government, our leaders and our military," said Marc Burnett, director and TTU's vice president of student affairs, who has worked with the program since 1984. "Four members of my family served in the armed forces, and I am honored to be able to contribute this service."
Boys' Staters will receive qualified instruction and advice during the week from elected state officials, including Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen, who will speak Saturday, May 31. Collin Bills, 2002 Boys' State governor, will address participants when they arrive Sunday. NASA astronaut Eric A. Boe will speak to delegates Monday, May 26. Judge Frank G. Clement Jr. of Nashville will preside over a special program on Wednesday.
Teachers, administrators, and community leaders nominated this year's group based on their academic talent and their potential for leadership. When they arrive on campus, the young men are assigned a mythical city, county and political party.
Community leaders assisting with government instruction include John Keyes, Commissioner of Tennessee's Department of Veterans Affairs; Billy C. Rodgers, senior field advisor for county technical assistance service of the University of Tennessee; former state representative Jerry Jared; Mary Virginia Maddux, former House Index Clerk; Cookeville attorney Jeffrey Jones; and Stephanie Miller, Cookeville's city clerk and finance director.
The week is not all politics and speeches. Boys' Staters can show off their talents in athletic events, including a swim meet and an all-star basketball game. Others will take the stage for a talent show or perform with the Boys' State band.
At the end of the week, the young men's families can join them for a picnic on campus, and special guests can attend the Boys' State governor's inaugural ball. On Saturday, participants will gather for a final parade, band concert and inauguration ceremony for their new governor. Gov. Bredesen will speak during the ceremony.
American Legion Posts across the state sponsor delegates and fund the activities held at Tennessee Tech.