As the Georgia General Assembly is in session at the state capitol building, Buford Middle School students got a hands-on lesson in lawmaking. 

The BMS eighth grade social studies department conducted its annual mock General Assembly on Friday, Jan. 28, in the BMS auditorium. Students studied the legislative process in class in the days leading up to the event and then became active members of the Assembly, assigning the roles of representatives, senators, speakers and doorkeepers. Select students presented their original bills before the group. Dressed professionally, they stood and addressed the legislative body, reading their persuasive arguments in hopes of hearing their bills voted into law.

BMS social studies teacher Susan Oates said, “We teach the students how a bill becomes a law, and then we model the process with students, where they then act as members of the General Assembly.”

Oates explained, “The students create a topic, write a bill and then debate their bill in small committees. From there, students gather in a large gathering that we call a mock Assembly where four to five social studies classes come together to debate certain selected topics and work together to try and get bills passed or killed.”

In one of Christy Coffey’s classes, two students, Salma Ghazal and Alina Hernandez, co-sponsored a bill aimed at preventing trains from blocking all crossings in a town at the same time. 

Ghazal and Hernandez got the idea from an eighth grade parapro, Sarah Herrington, who had noticed trains blocking all the crossings along Main Street in Buford when they stopped for various reasons. Herrington contacted the train company to express her concern over this practice. She said the train company told her there were no laws to restrict this.

“The girls wanted to create a law in regards to this problem because they felt this posed a threat to the safety of our citizens in Buford in case of a medical or fire emergency,” Coffey said. “Cameron Hutchins, our assistant principal, even spoke in favor of the bill since he lives in the area and has had first hand experience with this issue.”

As they stood in the well, the two students presented their argument before the mock legislature and pleaded their case as they fielded real, rapid-fire questions thrown at them by the students in the mock House of Representatives. 

“They worked very hard presenting their bill and even got their parents to help them prepare by having them brainstorm potential questions,” Coffey said.  

And that hard work paid off as Ghazal and Hernandez saw their bill passed into law. At least in the mock legislature, that is.

“I was so proud of these girls because they would typically never be the type to have volunteered for something like this,” Coffey said of her students. “However, after researching and debating the bill in class, they felt confident enough to do something outside their comfort zone.”

Oates added, “It is remarkable to watch the students go through this process. Depending on the class period, students may start as shy, but usually, by the second bill, students are actively engaged, debating, asking questions and voting to pass or kill the bill. It is a very rewarding day for both students and teachers alike.”

Coffey said, “It really helps highlight the beauty of our legislative process in a way that is meaningful, fun and creative!”

FEATURED PHOTO: Members of the mock general assembly, held by Buford Middle School’s eighth grade social studies department on Friday, Jan. 28, 2022, stand, hoping to be recognized to present their questions to a bill presenter. Photo courtesy of Susan Oates. 

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