Three days after Iowa voters select their leaders, two chambers will be gaveled into session — not at the state legislature, but in two schools separated by 300 miles. Jeff Shaw teaches at the State Training School for Girls in Toledo and will help preside over one chamber of the mock legislative session as the students work up a proposal to establish a statewide school dress code. Toledo students represent the house, he says, and the Glenwood students will represent a senate. The Toledo kids have written to their hometown schools asking what their dress codes are. That research will help them write a mock bill, and they’ll work to get it passed as they learn how state government works through this exercise. They’ll try to run it as much as possible like a real legislative session, complete with mock lobbyists representing different points of view on such a proposal, perhaps one for school boards and one for a group like the Christian Coalition, urging a more “fundamental dress code.” They have a proposal, a statewide dress-code for Iowa students, and will try to make it into a bill that could be presented to someone like the governor. All that work will take place on one day, as students in their classrooms are connected with each other and with a delegation at the state capital via video and audiolink through I-C-N, the Iowa Communications Network. Students will caucus in parties, and try to hammer out compromises and reach final wording on their bill by the end of the day. Some kids at the Toledo school have been sent by courts for being delinquent, others for CHINA — being Children in Need of Assistance, lacking responsible parents or other essentials. Shaw says there’s a special challenge to teaching his kids. The kids like feeling what they do is important and being able to connect it to “the real world,” so if they can relaet to it and see how it helps them they’re more willing to accept it. The Glenwood and Toledo classes will email, fax and write to each other as they prepare for their legislative day but won’t actually do their lobbying or write the final bill until their joint “session” November fifth.
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