Dialogues on Freedom Challenges Students to Debate the Balance of Individual Freedom and Security

More than 120 judges, attorneys, and law school students visited high school classrooms throughout Southern California as part of the Los Angeles County Bar Association’s (LACBA) 17th Annual Dialogues on Freedom fostering lively debates among nearly 2,800 students to encourage them to consider how the concepts of freedom, law, and justice impact their daily lives. 

Founded in 2002 by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Dialogues on Freedom provides students an opportunity to share their opinions with each other and legal professionals as to whether teachers, principals, city officials, or police have the right and/or obligation to intervene in situations students view as an infringement on their individual freedom. For many of these students, it is the first time they are able to interact with judges, attorneys, and law school students.

“Dialogues on Freedom is an important civics program because it allows our volunteers to conceptualize the broad concepts of personal freedoms and liberties by narrowing them down into scenarios these students face in their daily lives,” said Hon. Kevin Rosenberg, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge and Co-Chair of the Dialogues on Freedom Committee. “We want to challenge students to explore these issues and consider various viewpoints in determining where the balance of individual freedom and security lies for each of them.”

Los Angeles Superior Court Presiding Judge Daniel J. Buckley added, “Our Court and judges are honored to participate in the Dialogues on Freedom program. Our judicial system, and our community, directly benefit when all citizens, but especially young adults, better understand and appreciate the impact of the Constitution on our daily lives and freedoms.”

New this year, the Constitutional Rights Foundation (CRF) joined with LACBA, Los Angeles Superior Court, and Los Angeles Unified School District to collaborate on Dialogues of Freedom to expand the programs reach throughout Los Angeles and legal professionals.

"CRF is proud to collaborate with LACBA on Dialogues on Freedom. This important program fosters a critical civic education dialogue at high schools across Los Angeles. It is perfectly aligned with CRF’s mission to educate students about their constitutional rights and their role as citizens,” stated Marshall Croddy, President of Constitutional Rights Foundation.

“LACBA is proud to be collaborating with the Constitution Rights Foundation on this very important program,” Rasha Shields, Co-Chair of the Dialogues on Freedom Committee said. “Not only can we expand our volunteer base, but this partnership adds further credence to the importance of Dialogues on Freedom because CRF already has a variety of important civics learning programs and is a known leader in the area.”

Volunteers led students in debates using the following prompts:

  • Kneeling for the National Anthem: Do high school athletes have the right to respectfully protest the National Anthem at sporting events?;
  • “High” School Spirit: A student cannot participate in senior activities because the principal claims he disgraced the school and promoted marijuana use by adding a marijuana leaf over the word “high” on a high school t-shirt;
  • Hotel Search on Prom Night: School authorities alert police to break up an “after the party” because after last year’s party, drunk students were injured in a car accident;
  • Spyware on School Computers: Do schools have the right to load spyware onto laptops that are part of a laptop loaner program which might record student activities at home?;
  • Hate Speech on the Baseball Field: A student is suspended for yelling at an openly gay pitcher that he “throws like a girl,” in violation of the school’s rules against biased remarks based on gender and sexual orientation.

Among the high schools who participated in this year’s Dialogues on Freedom were: Arroyo High School, Banning High School, Belmont High School, Dorsey High School, Eagle Rock High School, Esteban Torres Social Justice Leadership Academy, Fairfax High School, Felicitas and Gonzalo Mendez High School, Hamilton High School, Lincoln High School, Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies (LACES), Los Angeles High, Maywood Center for Enriched Studies, Monroe High School, Narbonne High School, San Fernando High School, Sherman Oaks Center for Enriched Studies (SOCES), University High School, and Wilson High School.

To learn more, visit www.lacba.org/dialogues.