Arrival and Pretest
Students and teachers arrive outside the ceremonial courtroom.
After the pretest and discussion of the handout, the host judge may ask the students a series of open-ended questions to facilitate a discussion of bankruptcy and credit issues and to address their perceptions about bankruptcy. See Discussion Questions for suggestions.
Small Group Activity
The judge/court staff--working with the participating teachers--preselect the scenario(s) that will be used in the courtroom event. For example, students are asked to read the handouts in the lesson plan and they watch the first scenario of the video Bankruptcy: Don't Let it Happen to You (about a young woman in major credit card debt, called First Job - First Credit Crisis. For the discussion questions accompanying the First-Job Euphoria scenario, participants are asked to work in groups of about four. They are to discuss questions 1-4 in the small groups and then report their findings to the judge and entire group. All students discuss questions 5-9 in the large group with the judge. The entire group watches the third scenario of Bankruptcy: Don't Let it Happen to You (about the law school graduate who is seeking discharge of his debts, called Stuck with Student Loans). All of the questions will be discussed with the entire group.
First Job - First Credit Crisis
This scenario points out the consequences of abusing credit cards.
Stuck with Student Loans
This scenario demonstrates the dangers that students face when they do not get the high salary that they expected would repay their student loans and credit card debts.
The judge in the video for this scenario states, "Just getting a professional degree is not a solution if you are not paying attention to what you are doing with your money." To help the students gain an appreciation of what they might earn in a chosen field, the following chart lists examples of the average salary in 10 selected fields. Students should first be asked what they think each job pays before they are told the real amount.
Reading the Fine Print
Students are asked to read the fourth scenario Credit Card Applications and the Fine Print. This scenario points out some of the risks of not reading the fine print in a credit card application. After reading the scenario, the students and the judge talk about the discussion questions for this scenario.
Fine Print Scavenger Hunt
Students are provided with several credit card applications that have been selected in advance by court staff and/or teachers. They are asked to read the applications, including the fine print, very carefully and to compile a list of provisions in the application that may contain hidden fees. Examples include (1) annual fees; (2) temporary low introductory rates that are raised significantly after a certain amount of time; (3) the time span of the grace period before penalty/default fees are activated; (4) the definition of the credit card issuer's business day, and so on. The purpose of this activity is to increase students' awareness of the extra expenses that they have to pay as a result of not reading and/or understanding all of the provisions of the credit card application.
Lunch and Activity
At this time, the participating lawyers demonstrate the actual cost of using credit cards. Using the appropriate calculations, they show how making only the minimum payments on a credit card each month results in the consumer paying significantly more (sometimes as much as two or three times) the original price of the item.
Your Credit Rating: Maintaining the Green Line Between You and Bankruptcy
Participating lawyers show the students a credit report of a fictitious person with an average credit rating. This average person is someone who has had a few problems with credit in the past. The lawyers use this time to explain what a credit report is, how it works, and what its function is in a person's life. The lawyers use the credit report to explain the person's credit rating, what the person can do to improve his/her credit score, and what factors (for example, loss of job, divorce, excess credit card spending) can result in a lower credit rating--including events that may compel someone to file for bankruptcy.
Consequences of Filing for Bankruptcy
The lawyers explain the short- and long-term consequences of filing for bankruptcy, particularly its adverse impact on a person's credit history. They conclude by distributing a handout on how to maintain good credit and discussing ways to establish and maintain good credit and how to avoid bankruptcy.
Recognition and Dismissal
1:45- 2:00 p.m.
Judges distribute recognition certificates to students, teachers, and volunteer attorneys. Students have pictures taken with judges.
Students are dismissed.