State Bar's Law-Related Education Department hosts Texas Citizen Bee state finals

High school senior Ayesha Rahman of Brighter Horizons Academy in Garland took home first place at the Texas Citizen Bee State Finals, held at the Texas Law Center and State Capitol on April 25. The State Bar of Texas Law-Related Education Department sponsors the program, which is made possible by a grant from the Hatton W. Sumners Foundation. Rahman, who placed second at last year’s event, took home a scholarship prize of $1,000.

Above, from left: Ayesha Rahman, Daniel Reed, Joshua Goodwin, Morgan Frisby. Photograph courtesy of Barbara Schlief.

This civic education program and competition focuses on essential American heritage, including the Constitution, important documents like the Fugitive Slave Act, a range of influential people from John Locke to Sandra Day O’Connor, landmark U.S. Supreme Court cases, civic values and skills like respect and paying taxes, and significant current events.

Participating students prepare with a study guide provided by the Bill of Rights Institute and then take part in regional competitions to earn their spot at the state finals in Austin. They begin with a timed, multiple choice written exam (65 percent of final score), followed by an oral round in which they answer one question from each category (35 percent of final score).

Other 2015 state finalists included:

  • 2nd Place ($750): Daniel Reed, 12th-grader at John Jay High School in Northside ISD
  • 3rd Place ($500): Morgan Frisby, 12th-grader at Bowie Hight School in Austin ISD
  • 4th Place and Civic Conversation Award ($750): Joshua Goodwin, 10th-grader, Cypress Woods High School in Cypress-Fairbanks ISD

For more information on the Texas Citizen Bee, go to LRE’s website.


ACU pre-law adviser recognized as best in the country

With more than 20 years spent providing guidance to undergraduate students considering a career in the law, Mel Hailey of Abilene Christian University has been recognized as the top pre-law adviser in the nation. On March 23, 2015, the Pre-Law Advisors National Council announced that Hailey would be the recipient of its 2015 Dean Gerald Wilson Award for Excellence in Pre-Law Advising, which he will accept at the council’s southwestern regional association meeting in October. He was selected for the recognition among pre-law advisers at all U.S. colleges and universities.

Since 1994, Hailey has been advising hundreds of ACU students as a professor in the Department of Political Science. University statistics show that its students gain admission into law school at a rate of more than 90 percent—and political science students are admitted at a 99 percent rate.

“Dr. Hailey is known for his outstanding knowledge of law schools and the superb advice he gives,” said Neal Coates, chair of the ACU Department of Political Science. “He is also quite keen in helping students match their qualifications with a law school that will result in successful completion of their degree. Dr. Hailey even maintains relationships with many of our ACU graduates through their careers in law. This is a testimony to Dr. Hailey as an adviser but more importantly as a person.”

For more information on Hailey and his award, go to ACU’s press release. The Pre-Law Advisors National Council website is available at

Bob Black on Civics Education

Focus on Civics Education on Constitution Day

By Bob Black

Do you know more than an 8th grader? How many of us could master the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) required curriculum? Remember the significance of Marbury v. Madison? McCulloch v. Maryland? Gibbons v. Ogden? These are just a few of the landmark court decisions that 8th grade social studies students must know to be successful in preparing to meet the new TEKS standards.

Civics education ensures and fosters engaged citizens who understand our democracy and the liberties the rule of law protects. Receiving a comprehensive groundwork in civics is essential to producing the next generation of responsible, engaged citizens. To accomplish this, we need to connect with students via technology in an entertaining and thought-provoking manner.

We must also ensure that our teachers have a full array of educational resources available to help them prepare our children for the future. A major initiative during my tenure as president of the State Bar of Texas this year is working with the State Bar Law Related Education Department on Oyez, Oyez, Oh Yay! Civics Resources for Texas Students and Teachers – an interactive, web-based project to assist Texas teachers and middle and high school students in preparing for the new TEKS standards in the areas of government, history, citizenship and culture.

The website - - includes links to case summaries, videos, and curriculum materials and strategies for teachers. It also includes a State Bar-produced DVD featuring five seminal U.S. Supreme Court cases, with remarks from former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace B. Jefferson. It is our hope that the available resources will provide our teachers with the tools they need to shape our state’s next generation of civic leaders.

Constitution Day was created in December 2004 by legislation introduced by the late Sen. Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia. The legislation requires any educational institution receiving federal funding to implement an educational program about the Constitution on Sept. 17, to commemorate the signing of the Constitution in 1787.

Students at all levels throughout the country will celebrate Constitution Day. It’s a good time for all Americans to pause and learn more about the rule of law and how that concept is embodied in the Constitution. It is the basis for our government and ensures that we, as citizens, hold accountable our elected representatives for upholding our system of laws and protecting our liberties. As American citizens, we not only enjoy rights and freedoms, but we have a responsibility to ensure that the system of checks and balances and the separation of powers inherent in our great democracy live on. And that those principles live on in the generations to come.

For additional resources produced by the State Bar Law Related Education Department, including interactive games, visit

Bob Black is president of the State Bar of Texas. He is managing shareholder of MehaffyWeber, a law firm with offices in Houston and Beaumont.