MSU Law’s “Know Your Rights Day” Offers Cass Tech Students Valuable Lessons

By Jake Jenkins

April 18, 2023

MSU Law student Breia Lassiter, ’23 shows her enthusiasm for her subject during “Know Your Rights Day” at Cass Technical High School last Friday.

Michigan State University College of Law students engaged students at Cass Technical High School in Detroit in conversations about race, policing, and a young person’s Fourth Amendment rights when dealing with law enforcement.

Known as Know Your Rights Day, the annual event not only provides high school students with the information they need but is a benefit for MSU law students as well.

“It was really cool and a lot of fun,” said Brittany Macaddino, ’23, one of 29 students who joined MSU Law volunteers in the event. “The students were really engaging, and I think it is an important message to know. It felt good to know we were giving them information they can use in their day to day lives.”

The Fourth Amendment states, “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

Student volunteers were assigned to multiple classrooms at Cass Tech to teach about the Fourth Amendment, and how this affects their livelihood and what and what not to do when encountering law enforcement.

This event not only allowed students to gain insightful information but also allowed a parent to see his daughter apply her legal knowledge first-hand.

Rodney Hall, Dean of Culture at Cass Tech, and father of Taylor Hall, ’23, was not only glad to see his students learn about their rights but was excited to see his daughter as one of the teachers.

“I’m just overwhelmingly proud,” Hall said. “I’ve always been proud of her; she’s always given me something to be proud of her for and it’s just something to add to the list.”

Cass Tech’s “Wellness Day,” where students are given a break from traditional lessons and instead engage in things like dancing, meditating, or movies within their classrooms was also held that day.

And although the day was meant for students to take a break from learning, many teachers were pleased with MSU Law coming in and teaching about something so valuable.

MSU Law students (from left to right) Selita Paea, ’25, George Spicer, ’25 and Nick Evers, ’25, talk to students during “Know Your Rights Day” at Detroit’s Cass Technical High School last Friday.

“It’s easy to have a misunderstanding of how to exercise your rights based on media,” said Lauralyn Taylor, English and Communication teacher at Cass Tech. “It’s great to have students come in who know the law and can articulate it for them especially since majority of our students are minorities who are discriminated against.”

According to US News, 98% of Cass Tech’s enrollment are minorities with Black students being 77%.

Nancy Costello, Associate Clinical Professor and Director of First Amendment Clinic, originally held clinics at Detroit high schools with MSU Law students, teaching First Amendment laws, but was approached by Anita Crouch, a teacher at Cass Tech, who wanted something more.

With growing reports of unarmed Black people within the U.S. facing violence from police officers, especially during traffic stops, Crouch wanted to make sure that her students were equipped with as much knowledge as possible when encountering law enforcement.

“At the particular time there was a lot going on with the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality, which unfortunately has not changed,” Crouch said. “My concern was with the kids and the generations after them coming in my classes They don’t get their news unless it’s from social media. With that lack of information, it is detrimental to their health if they are stopped and have no knowledge of what they can or cannot say.”

Students throughout the day had many questions and concerns as to how the Fourth Amendment works. They engaged in conversations that they may not have in other places, and it was an opportunity for most to ask questions with those who have studied the law rigorously.

Due to media release regulations for Detroit Public Schools and MSU surrounding minors, students from Cass Tech will not be identified by government names.

“Since I am graduating and will be going to college, this is very important,” said a senior at Cass Tech. “I’m going to be on my own and things like this could happen to me so it’s best to know my rights.”

“I felt very informed after listening to the presentation today,” said a sophomore student. “I knew most of these things but there were other parts of the law I was not aware of and I’m glad that I know now.”

MSU Law student Andy Kenney, ’24 answers a question from a Cass Technical High School student during last Friday’s “Know Your Rights Day.”