Law students become teachers for a day
Public Relations - Published: May 1, 2008

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Widener Law students Lorraine Gordon, standing left, and Eileen Horgan, teach a history lesson to Concord High School students.

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Widener Law student Lorraine Gordon talks with the high school students.

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Widener Law student Eileen Horgan talks with the high school students.

A group of Widener Law students recently traded their desk space for a spot in the front of the classroom, where they acted as teachers to share an important civil-rights-history lesson with area high school students.

The 14 Widener students worked in pairs, visiting classrooms at Wilmington Christian School, William Penn High School, Alexis I. du Pont High School and Concord High School in mid April. They taught the teens about the 1950 Delaware Court of Chancery case Parker v. University of Delaware, which resulted in a ruling that segregation by the university was unconstitutional.

The initiative was done through the law school’s Law and Inequality Project, in cooperation with the Delaware Law Related Education Center. The project began this spring and involves several components, including a law school seminar, public service projects and a teaching exercise. The Widener students first underwent training to ready themselves for the teaching task. They came to the high schools armed with handouts, a lesson plan and enthusiasm for sharing a pivotal piece of state history.

“This case was important to the history of our nation,” law student Lorraine Gordon told the 24 students in Glenn Runyon’s history class at Concord High School.

Gordon taught the class with fellow Widener student Eileen Horgan on Friday, April 18. The pair generated a discussion on race in the United States in the 1950s and how “separate but equal” was the U.S. Supreme Court-sanctioned law of the land at the time.

In a classroom where the walls were decorated with colorful posters of the Bill of Rights, all the U.S. presidents and Martin Luther King Jr., Gordon and Horgan explained the case Brooks M. Parker made to Delaware Chancellor Collins J. Seitz in his effort to win admission to the university. But they also worked to give the students an appreciation for how the law worked, and the arduous task Parker had before him.

“You can’t just say this is what I want,” Gordon explained. “You have to say, this is what I want, and this is what I deserve, because this law says so.”

A year after his decision in the Parker case, Seitz decided another case about segregation in public schools. That was ultimately one of four combined into the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case.