The Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities can sometimes be seen as an easy punching bag by legislators, employees, employers and employment law attorneys.
But there’s one area that has been an unequivocal success and where you won’t see almost any headlines.
The CHRO several years ago developed the Kids Court Essay Competition which runs each year. In it, it gives high school and middle students the opportunity to talk about topics that are important to them and shine a spotlight on others who may not have the same opportunity. In doing so, the competition focuses on important and contemporary civil justice issues.
This year’s essay topics were:
- #Dreamers: The Immigration Debate
- #Hate Crimes: Don’t Pull the Trigger
- #Where I Live, Who Can I Become
- #Educational equity: race, power & privilege
The CHRO received over 300 (!) entries. Out of that, five essays were chosen as finalists at both the middle school and high school levels. Each student then had the opportunity to address the Kids Court — a panel of distinguished lawyers, judges and others assembled for this purpose.
This week was this this year’s Kids Court and I was grateful the CHRO asked me to participate as a judge.
The students displayed a keen awareness of the local community; they each talked about topics that were important to them. The students that talked about Hate Crimes and Educational Equity had a particular resonance to the current events of today.
As an employment lawyer, I found it notable that none of the finalists’ essays were actually on #metoo. I don’t think there’s much to conclude from that, other than that the students’ essays on other topics were judged to be better.
In 2018, we’ve seen high school students rise to national prominence in Florida over the issue of school safety and gun violence. Listening to these “kids” and making sure their voices are heard is something that employers should consider. Today’s generation of students are increasingly impatient with the pace of change.
Congratulations to all the finalists and I look forward to hearing their continuing contributions to our civil discourse in the years to come.