Tag Archives: Sociology of Law

Sociology of Law equips students with the skills to tackle politics

By C.M. Bateman

Staff Writer

At the heart of most schools’ curriculum, the understanding of social and political issues seems to be suppressed under the demand for students to comprehend Common Core and the push for students’ ability to take standardized tests well.

Often, it takes an extreme act of social injustice to spark a conversation about political issues in schools; when in reality, people all across the nation face many forms of injustice every day, whether it be small acts of inequality or an event as large as a riot.

An article published by The Atlantic confronts the question of whether controversial issues belong in the classroom head-on, stating, “Some teachers have not acquired the background knowledge or the pedagogical skills—or both—to lead in-depth discussions of hot-button political questions. Most of all, though, teachers have often lacked the professional autonomy and freedom to do so.”

Here at Summit Public School: Tahoma, the case might be a little different. There is a whole course dedicated to open discussion about politics and social issues called Sociology of Law.


Lissa Thiele is the Sociology of Law teacher for the Expeditions team.

The course is taught by Lissa Thiele, an Expeditions educator with a background in law and social justice advocacy and a member of the Juvenile Justice Commission of Santa Clara County. For five years she has taught the Sociology of Law course at Summit schools; this year she teaches at Summit Tahoma, Summit Prep, Summit Rainier and Summit Denali.

Mrs. Thiele defines her course as a study of the legal system and the social patterns that influence the psychology of different groups of individuals. The class provides students with the tools and resources they need, not only in academics but also in social and emotional ways, to empower themselves to build the resilience necessary to be successful in Santa Clara County as civic-minded adults.


Josh Villalva is one of the Teacher Assistants for Sociology of Law at Tahoma.

Josh Villalva, a junior at Summit Tahoma, has been taking Sociology of Law for two years. He opened up about what he will take from this class into his life outside of school.

“I, as a member of society, am directly affected,” Villalva expressed. “If I were to ever go to prison or get in trouble with the police, I would know what to do, what to say, and I would have an understanding of what to do in the situation, and so would others.”

Mrs. Thiele takes pride in emotionally and academically investing in the students in her classes, and Villalva’s statement touches on one of Mrs. Thiele’s specific goals for this class. When asked what she hopes students will take away from this course, she answered, “I want students to be able to take away the understanding of what their own personal rights are … and I want students to walk out of here feeling empowered and having learned resources of where to go and what to do as they experience injustice in this world.”


Students learn about mass incarceration and criminalization of minorities through the documentary 13th.


13th tells the story of African Americans facing racial injustice in the real world since the creation of the 13th Amendment.

Another one of Mrs. Thiele’s most important objectives for this class is to strengthen students’ abilities to confidently participate in political discussions in the real world. Throughout the school year, students engage in multiple Socratic Seminars and watch films about social injustice, which allows them to reflect on current juvenile justice policies and pushes students to contribute in solution-based brainstorms to end sentences.

Very few other classes at Summit Tahoma, or in San Jose in general, model the type of curriculum that Sociology of Law presents. The class provides a safe space for students to open up about their opinions, no matter how controversial they might be.


Mrs. Thiele facilitates a class discussion after finishing the film.

The class also covers many political issues of the past and the present, as well as social issues— for example, the legalization of marijuana in California. Mrs. Thiele believes giving students the ability to share their perspective about issues most adults attempt to avoid is one of the most crucial and principal aspects of her class.


Mrs. Thiele provides background for some aspects of the documentary by presenting about the War on Drugs in the United States.

Mrs. Thiele largely advocates for those who lack a voice in history due to the “model of oppression” and “culture of power” she has personally experienced in studying history. One of her students relates to this concept of untold stories.


Elizabeth Huitron is a senior at Tahoma.

Elizabeth Huitron is a senior at Tahoma who just joined the course this year. Despite having been in the class only for a few weeks, she says she likes the class because she’s “learning a lot of stuff that I probably would have never learned before. Our school system doesn’t really teach us about these subjects.”

The lack of political and social education in the classroom, as Huitron stated, can be connected back to teachers’ caution in discussing controversial topics during school.

NPR interviewed the two authors of The Political Classroom: Evidence and Ethics in Democratic Education, a book about helping students learn how to handle political questions, and asked these women various questions about politics in a school setting.

Their answers offered suggestions about how teachers should approach disputed issues while facilitating students’ conversations appropriately, and illustrated the importance of political discussion that forms students’ ability to express political views:

“And the point of the book is to say that, in general, to be able to talk about politics is a skill that people need to learn. And it would be great if it were learned in school because these are great moments in which you bring a group of young people together who are forming their political views. They can really learn to engage across their differences and to start to see that political conflict is a normal part of democratic life.”


Arianna Zavala is a sophomore at UC San Diego.

One of Mrs. Thiele’s previous students, Arianna Zavala, graduated in the spring of 2016 from Summit Tahoma and found herself more than prepared when it comes to sharing her political views in a brand new social and academic setting.

“Once I took that class, I learned to be more culturally and socially aware of things, of religion and cultures,” Zavala said. “Coming here, I also needed to do the same and respect other cultures and be aware that we’re all different and be accepting of that and acknowledge that.”

Zavala credits Mrs. Thiele’s course with helping her fine-tune her ability to share her opinions, noting, “In college, and in general, you need to be very outspoken; so being in the sociology class, I was able to discuss with my peers and be able to explain how I was trying to get my point across, helping me be more outgoing and more outspoken and getting me to say what I believe.”

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The class analyzes the racist implications and use of racial slurs in Joyner Lucas’ music video “I’m Not Racist.”

Without a doubt, Mrs. Thiele’s curriculum pushes students to become contributing members of society by diving into these types of political and social topics and structuring her class as an safe, open environment for student perspectives.

Featured Image (top of this post): Mrs. Thiele jots down notes to discuss with the class after 13th.


Students attend a Black Lives Matter symposium

Sociology of Law teacher speaks on how diversity impacts the community

Cultural awareness builds understanding between Americans

Students attend a Black Lives Matter symposium

By Kristian Bekele and Micah Tam

Staff Editors

On Aug. 30, students from the Sociology of Law class at Summit Prep attended a symposium that included guest speakers such as Wanda Johnson, mother of Oscar Grant, Gwen Carr, mother of Eric Garner and Samaria Rice, mother of Tamir Rice. The event also included a town hall discussion, a film screening and discussion panels.  

This event was a part of the Expedition course’s curriculum concerning the understanding of the justice system and its shortcomings.

The topic of institutionalized racism is something that Expeditions teacher Lissa Thiele has taught several times within both her Holocaust and Genocide class and her Sociology of Law class.  

Her focus has been on multiple aspects of institutionalized racism such as the school-to-prison pipeline, the higher incarceration rates of African Americans versus other races and how slavery and Jim Crow laws in American history have affected modern day society.

Starting off the event, filmmaker Kristina Williams screened her film Black Lives, Gray Matter. In it, scenes of BLM protests, an interview with the San Francisco police chief William Scott and the criticism of the #AllLivesMatter movement were shown. After the screening, Williams explained the purpose of this event when she said, “Today is about planting seeds so we can all grow and blossom.” 


Flimmaker Kristina Williams films Summit Prep students. 

Following the screening, a mediated discussion with the guest panel of mothers whose children died from police brutality took place.


Panel moderator David “Davey D” Cooks addresses the audience. 

The panel covered topics such as the media’s portrayal of their sons, gathering strength to tell their sons’ stories and the unfairness of losing a child.


From left to right: Samaria Rice, Gwenn Carr and Wanda Johnson speak about how their sons’ death affected their lives. 

Explaining how much she missed her son, Johnson said, “I miss him at the table at Thanksgiving. I miss him at my birthday celebrations.”

Rice said, “I don’t know how they can demonize a 12-year-old,” when talking about how the media twisted the image of her son.

Carr said, “No matter what the color of your skin is, what religion you are, wrong is wrong and right is right,” and, “Another mother shouldn’t cry as we have,” when voicing her frustration over the society’s current treatment of how black children and black people are treated. 

The students who attended this symposium saw this as a trip that was necessary to be a part of.


Sociology of Law students and Expeditions teacher Lissa Thiele take a group picture. 

Vanessa Contreras, a Summit Prep junior, said that it was necessary for students to attend this symposium because hearing the mothers that were involved allowed for students to “get to take away how they went through the pain.”

Other students reiterated the same point as Contreras.

Kurumi Babe, a junior at Summit Prep, spoke about how it was essential for students to attend this symposium because students are the future. She said, “You get to know other people’s stories. You want to help other people like them so it doesn’t happen again.”

Kayla Payan, a senior at Summit Prep, said, “Empathy was a big reason why we should have gone.”

Liliana Gomez, a senior at Summit Prep, put it in perspective by saying, “It could be your son that gets shot.”

Sometimes, finding empathy might be overshadowed by the shame that comes with talking about sensitive topics like race.

James Howe, a junior at Summit Prep, believes that sometimes parents are uncomfortable with a heavy topic such as race.  He elaborated more by saying,  “A lot of parents feel that their kid shouldn’t be exposed to it in certain ways; they’ll feel paranoid.”

Two seniors, Anna Axiaq and Jane Abrams, expanded on his points by pointing out the various ways in which parents and the society can stifle the much-needed dialogue.

Abrams brought in the history of America and how institutionalized racism has yet to resolve. She said we have to acknowledge “so many problems in our society” such as institutionalized racism in American society.

Axiaq brought in her own experiences as a person who had a different experience due to her upbringing in a White household, explaining that her parents were protective and she hadn’t heard about Oscar Grant “until I was in a class that a teacher exposed and explained why these things happen.”

Students saw this missed opportunity for education as an issue, and they said it was only through unity and education that progress can be made.


Filmmaker Kristina Williams converses with Summit Prep students. 

Summit Prep senior Isabella Weiss articulated on the issue of social unity by saying, “This world, no matter who you are, will have problems because not everyone is fully accepting of everyone. It won’t be easy, but if everyone has an open mind, stuff can be achieved.”

Victor Aguilar, a sophomore at Summit Prep, said that topics like this are “not black and white” and that each situation is going to be different due to the people involved in the case.

There were students who disagreed with this stance, saying that police should have more training in how to de-escalate in intense situations.

Summit Prep senior Jose Gutierrez-Hernandez believes that police “can’t handle certain situations” and that they “act on their own”. He further voiced his stance by saying, “Some cops, they don’t think about other situations. They don’t see the best option. They’d rather just shoot the person than injure them.”

Other students also agreed with what Gutierrez-Hernandez said concerning police conduct with communities.

Summit Prep junior Connor Pierce said something similar: “They need to be better on recognizing situations before they pull out their weapon.”

Axiaq repeated a point that Samaria Rice said during the symposium about how officers receive 56 hours of firearm training and only 10 hours of community training.

Kayla Payan also backed up her reasoning by pointing out that for police officers to do their job they “have to know about the community.”

Payan concluded with how essential community training is to interacting with community members. She intoned, “As much as I love the idea of a cop seeing a gun and saying ‘Hey, please stop’, and de-escalate, it’s not going to happen.”


Mother of Oscar Grant the Third, Wanda Johnson, and Expeditions teacher Lissa Thiele took a selfie during Intermission. 

Ms. Thiele also sees teaching students about social justice issues such as criminal justice and incarceration rates as something that is unavoidable. “The same topics that were current four years ago are still current now,” she explained.

She believes that “people have not learned from the past” and therefore sees “an immediate and urgent need to teach my students how to survive in American society.”


A flyer advertises the event at Skyline College. 

She has seen pushback about teaching such a topic with student’s parents.

Ms. Thiele has had a wide range of concerns from parents seeing the class as necessary for their college credentials to: “Does this add value for my child?” or even parents assuming that students are attending a protest.

Some parents are concerned on whether all sides are being equally presented in her teaching. Ms. Thiele said that she does represent the sides that are “insane stances” such as Holocaust denial.

Ms. Thiele instead mentions the class subjects are about “educational awareness” and are quintessential to the next generation of parents. “I’m talking about when they are parents.”

Featured Image (top of this post): Mother of Eric Garner, Gwen Carr, speaks to Summit Prep students. 

Expeditions experiences help students explore their futures

By Teresa Faasolo

Staff Writer

Students from Everest Public High School spent the last few weeks of school in their Expeditions classes, where they explored their interests on a personal and professional level. At the end of the year, students showcased their learning to parents and school staff at an event called Celebration of Learning. Here’s some insight from students who chose to work to further their education and their future.

Education Pathways

Education Pathways educates students about some particular flaws within the educational system, as seen through the eyes of an educator. Students visited schools, watched educational videos and sat through lectures about multiple subjects that could pop up as flaws within the educational system. They also learned teaching techniques.

For Celebration of Learning, students in the Education Pathways course presented about their experiences in the time they spent within the course.


Through a TED Talk, Everest freshman Lindsey Pulido learned about how “Self Love” can boost people’s self-esteem.


Everest freshman Vanessa Castro learned about the ZPD (also known as Zone of Proximal Development). She stated that it was about “the difference between what a learner can do without help and what they can do with help.”


Everest freshman Ximena Bustamante presents her poster summarizing her experience at Garfield, where she went to help out elementary teachers. She was able to learn the basics of teaching and was able to spend time with the kids.


College Readiness

In College Readiness Expeditions course, juniors study and research several colleges that fit into the following four categories: financial safety, likely, target and reach. These four categories help determine their chances for admission and their goals to improve either their grades or their half-built resumes for future college applications. Students are also educated about different financial strategies to pay for college. They learn about loans, grants, scholarships and work study.

Each student is encouraged to pursue higher education in order to better their chances of receiving higher pay and finding a fulfilling personal career. Therefore, they make their decisions about how many colleges they want to apply to and they adjust their choices to their preferences in areas such as student population, location and student services. Mainly, this Expeditions course provides a head start on college applications and essays that students must complete in their senior year.

During Celebration of Learning, students presented their selected colleges and all the information that they gathered over the course. Parents were able to see the colleges that their children are interested in, and students demonstrated that they will be able to create future plans to set them on a good path.


College Readiness students created portfolios describing which schools they want to apply to and why those schools are a good fit. PHOTO CREDIT: Shawn Wilson

Sociology of Law

Students in the Sociology of Law Expeditions course are educated about current events that are associated with politics and social science. They dive deep into the subject of law and discuss how to handle certain situations with law enforcement, as well as educating themselves about their basic human rights. Furthermore, students learn more about other social issues.

For Celebration of Learning, students had a Socratic seminar where they discussed their experiences and debated social issues. Parents were able to join the discussion, as they could learn from the experience in a similar way to how students were educated about the subject over the school year.

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Parents and students participate in a Socratic seminar for the Sociology of Law course. PHOTO CREDITS: Jesus Yepez



Everest sophomore Bella Gutierrez PHOTO CREDIT: Jesus Yepez

“You would think that law class is really boring, but Ms. Thiele makes it interactive. She makes us watch documentaries about a current topic that we are talking about and makes us discuss it as a group. She also makes sure that it is a full class participation and that no one is left out,” Everest sophomore Bella Gutierrez, who serves as a TA for the course, explained. 

“Ms. Thiele teaches us how to protect ourselves in case of any interactions with law enforcement and also as young adults knowing the law and different social issues we need to know about. She also teaches us around basic human rights so we never have them taken away.”



Staff Writers Shawn Wilson and Jesus Yepez contributed to this report. 





Summit Prep students show their families what they have learned in Expeditions

By Kristian Bekele 

Staff Writer  

On May 25, Summit Prep students demonstrated all that they have learned to peers and parents in what is known as the Celebration of Learning showcase. From 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., students from the Expeditions classes Education Pathways, College Readiness and Sociology of Law showed off what they learned in the eight weeks of Expeditions.

Education Pathways 

In Education Pathways, students learn about the educational system and its flaws from an educator’s perspective. Students went to schools and shadowed teachers as they learned about the achievements and problems of educational systems.

For their final product, students got to choose between modeling their career pathways and how they would achieve their goals or highlighting a specific flaw in the educational system.


Summit Prep freshman Armando Sanchez and sophomore Brandon Kerney look over Kerney’s final product.


Summit Prep junior Angela Chung shows her plans to attend Cornell University and Harvard in order to achieve a career as an architect. She said that the reason why she wants to be an architect is because she likes how architecture combines various elements such as math, drawing and design to make structures.


College Readiness 

College Readiness is a mandatory course where juniors learn about college and the application process. Summit Prep juniors showcased their college applications to fellow classmates, teachers and parents. As part of their final product, students made a slideshow demonstrating what colleges they wanted to go to, the necessary qualifications and their reasoning for choosing those schools.


Summit Prep junior Paola Godoy presents her college plan to her mentor Bree Hawkins.



Summit Prep Dean Mary Beth Thompson talks to her mentees, Juan Reyes and Jesus Pichardo, about their college choices.


Sociology of Law 

“There is no such thing as a good person or a bad person, only good and bad choices.” S. Dawson’s quote is something the Sociology of Law class learns from the moment they step inside the classroom commanded by Expeditions teacher Lissa Thiele, who also serves as a Juvenile Justice Commissioner.


Sociology of Law teacher and Juvenile Justice Commissioner Lissa Thiele

During Celebration of Learning, the class had a Socratic Seminar involving parents and students debating whether armed guards were allowed in schools. The topic was thus because the class had been studying the Second Amendment and mass shootings. They had watched a documentary on Columbine earlier in the round, and the documentary was still fresh in their minds.

During the Socratic, the group discussed mental health because a majority of school shooters have been shown to have mental issues. The topic of damaged masculinity was also brought up early in the conversation.

Damaged masculinity is when a man’s masculine qualities are destroyed by someone finding and exposing their weakness and ridiculing them for it. Because most mass shooters are men, this damaged masculinity plays a huge role in the number of youth dying per year from mass shootings.

At the start of the Socratic, parents and students who participated seemed to agree on one thing: In different situations, people feel safer with armed guards, but they don’t feel safe with an armed guard in the school.

Staff Writers Micah Tam, Tyler McGuire and Darya Worsell contributed to this report. 

Expeditions students explore potential careers

By Liz Kromrey

Staff Writer

The closer students get to senior year, the more they start to worry about what career they want to pursue or study during college. Using the Expeditions classes College Readiness, Internship and Sociology of Law, students are able to get closer to knowing what career they want to follow.


File_004At the beginning of the year, students applied to internship positions at jobs they wished to pursue. The jobs they did as interns changed depending on which business they were assigned to. While interning at Alpha Tech, Rainier senior Willy Teav was assigned the job of counting lightbulbs: “I did a lot of counting, a lot of math skills.”

File_001Rainier senior Judit Solorio interned at a Tech Shop, where she was able to use equipment such as the laser cutter. 

College Readiness:

Ashley Pinnell and Veronica Bettencourt were the teachers this year for College Readiness, and both got to showcase so many things that go into the process of college application for the juniors this year. The students in their class detailed what made them interested in certain colleges during the Celebration of Learning showcase.



Rainier junior Jackie Diaz gives her presentation, highlighting that she wants to attend a small Christian university on the West Coast and that she is looking forward to the independence that comes when going to college.





Rainier junior Rylie Weaver presents to the after-school audience, explaining that his dream school is Princeton and that it is considered a lottery school.


20170511_181948Rainier junior Mario Rios presents his best fit criteria document to onlookers. Rios spoke about his target college, ASU. 

20170511_183513Rainier junior Matthew Guerrero, chose to use a slides presentation to talk about his target school, USC. 

Sociology of Law:

In this course, students from all different grade levels took part in learning about the sociological effects of the law in our country. Here are some perspectives from students, faculty and parents on the question: Should we have armed guards in all public schools across the nation to help prevent mass shootings in schools?




Lissa Thiele facilitates a Socratic seminar in which students and parents discussed how best to keep schools safe. 




Rainier junior Jackie Diaz stated that having armed guards at all public schools would create a hostile environment.

Adding onto that, Elizabeth Franco-Lee, parent of Rainier senior Joshua Franco-Lee, stated that there would be a high level of worry brought onto parents of children at schools with armed guards due to the possibility of accidental shootings.

 The group then debated the following question: Even if this idea were to happen, where would we get all the funding from? What would this funding take away from other school programs?