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Black Oak class visits courthouse to witness government in action

Black Oak class visits courthouse to witness government in action

Posted: Wednesday, March 7, 2012 6:00 pm

The Messenger 03.07.12

The Plus class of Black Oak Elementary School in Hornbeak learned about government in action on a recent visit to the Obion County Courthouse.
The trip, sponsored by Obion County Farm Bureau, was coordinated by Brenda Baker of Farm Bureau Women, Obion County Mayor Benny McGuire and Black Oak Plus teacher Melissa Logan.
It was chaperoned by Black Oak principal Sheila Stone and Mike Whitby, the grandfather of Plus student Matthew Carter.
Other students who participated in the trip were Rianna Farnetti, Sara Jane Kendall, Brianne Wilder, Kinley Ferguson, Emma Gurien, Katelin Jones, Andrew Rice, Dustin Deason and Kaylee Burnett.
McGuire greeted the group at his office by giving a history of the four courthouses that have served Obion County since its organization. He distributed information sheets with pictures of the older buildings.
The tour started with a stop at the granite mural in the central hallway showing the districts and town locations. McGuire pointed out the Roll Call of Veterans that lines the hallway. He stressed to the students that these Obion Countians who answered the call to serve their country guaranteed the freedoms which include the right to vote and choose county, state and national leaders.
County Clerk Vollie Boehms explained about license plates, marriage licenses and the many other duties of her office. Mrs. Baker advised the students they could “climb their family trees” by examining the older marriage record books.
Assessor of Property Judy Smith allowed the students to look at aerial views of her home and demonstrated the computer program that helps with the assessment of property taxes.
Trustee Lori Seals informed the class about the collection of property taxes and explained that this money pays for their school buildings, buses and even teachers’ salaries. She also told them about the penalties of not paying taxes.
Register of Deeds Vicky Long demonstrated the computer program that helps organize Obion County’s deeds and allowed students to see the older handwritten deed books. Several of the students were delighted when they found the deeds to their own homes.
Because court was in session, the students did not expect to visit the courtrooms on the second floor of the courthouse, but a chance meeting with Circuit Judge William Acree and Obion County Sheriff Jerry Vastbinder resulted in a special invitation.
After telling the students that most drug offenders start at their age, Acree invited the group to visit his court and sit in the jury box. He stressed the seriousness of the proceedings and what the results would be if the person appearing before him was convicted of a crime. A very quiet group of students entered the courtroom and filed into the jury box. They spent a half-hour watching the proceedings of four cases.
McGuire, Mrs. Baker and Mrs. Logan held a discussion with the students after leaving the courtroom to make sure they understood what they had seen. Mrs. Baker said the students readily grasped that one prisoner lost his right to vote when he pleaded guilty to a felony.
The group then proceeded to the third floor to visit the old jail facilities, which are now used for storage purposes. McGuire gave a history of the space, explained about the new county jail and showed the students an old file which is stored there. He then allowed the students to experience being incarcerated by “locking” them in an old cell.
Upon leaving the courthouse, the group visited the Obion County Election Office across the street. Administrator of elections Leigh Schlager greeted the students and explained the importance of elections to democracy. She told them there would be three elections in Obion County this year and encouraged them to go with their parents when they vote to experience one of the greatest freedoms available.
Before boarding their bus, the students gathered for a group picture in front of the Iwo Jima Memorial on the courthouse grounds. McGuire told them about the memorials and statues on the courthouse lawn.
Mrs. Baker treated the group to lunch at McDonald’s on behalf of the Obion County Farm Bureau.

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