Jamaica HS hits quarterfinals in city mock trials

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Jamaica High School students will be showing the city that the future of their campus is worth fighting for by taking their school spirit to a court room scenario and to the steps of their institution.

The law team of the school, which is slated for phase-out this fall, was scheduled to participate in the quarterfinals of the city’s mock trial competition this week at Queens Criminal Court.

Students of the extracurricular law group have been doing well this school year, beating other borough institutions such as Holy Cross High School in earlier rounds, according to James Eterno, a social studies teacher, who is the school’s United Federation of Teachers chapter leader.

Eterno said their success counters the city Department of Education’s argument that the school cannot turn around its large number of student failures.

“I don’t think there are many closing schools that have their law team go this far,” he said.

As part of this round of the competition, the group was set to argue before a State Supreme Court judge a mock case that hit close to campus.

The team’s case involves a school board trying to defend itself in a lawsuit, according to Eterno.

Last year Jamaica High, at 167-01 Gothic Drive, was saved from closure after the United Federation of Teachers won a suit against the city over its plan to phase it out. A judge ruled that the DOE did not properly inform parents about the reasoning behind the closures.

The city voted last month to once again phase out Jamaica and Beach Channel high schools due to a declining graduation rate and a weak school report card grade.

Although no legal actions have been announced to attempt another reversal, Eterno said he, his fellow teachers and students are still planning to stand up for the school.

State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) said he will be joining the Jamaica student body for a rally Friday at noon. The students will take to the front of the campus with signs and cheers to tell the city to rethink its plans.

“We want to keep the flame alive,” said Eterno, the school’s UFT chapter leader.

Avella, who has been advocating for the school since he took office in January, has said the school has not received sufficient resources from the DOE, such as updated computers and white boards.

The senator pointed out that the law team’s success is a prime example of why the school should not be phased out.

“It shows they can be motivated and do the right thing, but they need more resources,” he said.

Avella said this week’s rally will be the first of several demonstrations to be held at the school over the next couple of weeks. Eterno said the school is mulling a student trip to Albany as well.

Reach reporter Ivan Pereira by e-mail at or by phone at 718-260-4546.

Updated 10:48 am, October 12, 2011
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