Syerra is a senior and this is her third year in Journalism. She is the editor of The Fluco Beat and a member of the BETA Club. She likes to read and...
Capitol Trip Exposes Students to More Than They Bargained For
March 8, 2019
In an effort to learn more about state government, Mitchell Pace’s AP Government (also known as AP Gov) class took a field trip to Richmond to tour the State Capitol building on Feb. 18.
The experience turned out to be a little more than the students had bargained for.
The first stop on the trip was to Delegate Rob Bell’s office, where he educated the students on what his specific job as a delegate is and some of the bills he has worked on in the past. He informed the class about a bill he was currently working to be passed in the house for Fluvanna resident Amanda Petrylak. Petrylak was driving home with her eight-year-old daughter, Claire, when they were hit by a drunk driver two days before Thanksgiving.
Petrylak and her daughter suffered severe injuries, but since there was no permanent damage, the driver responsible was only charged with a misdemeanor. The bill proposed by Bell would change the wording of the current law, so that it no longer requires the victim to sustain permanent damage, and would enable authorities to charge such drunk drivers with a felony.
AP Gov student Rebecca Trail said she was grateful for the opportunity to meet Delegate Bell, saying she “learned what he does and how influential he is in our county and state government.”
After they spoke with Delegate Bell, the AP Gov class took a tour of the State Capitol building where they encountered protesters urging state legislators to sign the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). As a result of this protest, the students learned that if Virginia signs the amendment, it would be the 38th and final state needed to add the ERA to the U.S. Constitution.
The students were surprised to see another group of ERA protesters who had set up a demonstration outside the State Capitol building, with two women imitating the front seal of the Virginia state flag. One of the women was arrested for indecent exposure. She was ordered to be held in jail without bond until her court date of March 21.
The AP Gov students were waiting for their bus to take them back to school when the demonstration began. Some students supported the protesters and were glad that they had used their constitutional right to freedom of speech to express their distress with the current legislation. “It’s good that people feel so passionate about our country and rights that they protest when they see injustices,” said senior Bayley Leyshon.
Other students were shocked at the display. One student, senior Samantha Bridges, said “it was very eye-opening to see such an unconventional and outspoken form of protest.” Trail said she was also surprised by the ERA protest. “I didn’t know people could protest inside and around the capitol,” she said.
The last stop on the trip–a visit to the Senate house to watch the state legislators in session–was comparatively anti-climactic. The class watched a few legislators make introductions and saw a few bills get passed before heading back to school.
Senior Devon Shifflett said this was one of his favorite field trips with the AP Gov class. “It was an amazing experience to witness our state legislators at work and to see bills passed right in front of my eyes,” he said. Another student, senior Adora Gamage, said “it was fascinating to see where our state’s laws and regulations are made.”
The class has since finished their unit on state and local government and are awaiting their next field trip, in the hopes that it will be just as eventful as this one.