MANATEE -- Most students in seventh grade and a small portion in ninth-grade classes in the Manatee County School District will learn to "Know the Law" in the 2015-16 academic year.
The class is designed to teach students to understand their rights when it comes to the law and the consequences for violating it.
"It's similar lessons to the DARE classes, but that was over a period of time and this is more of a crash course," said Dave Bristow, spokesman for the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
Student Resource Officers and members of the Manatee County Substance Abuse Coalition will teach the classes in one session that will last between 45 and 90 minutes.
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Officials with the Manatee County School District said the class is a starting point, and there are possibilities for expansion later.
"The district was approached by the substance abuse coalition and local law enforcement regarding this program, and we thought it was a great step to be proactive and help our student make good decisions that benefit our county," said Cynthia Saunders, the school district's deputy superintendent of instruction.
The classes will be taught in seventh-grade civics and ninth-grade health opportunities through physical education classes.
Most seventh-grade students take civics and a few ninth-graders take the HOPE class.
Mainly, the class focuses on the consequences students will face if they break the law. Offenses include doing drugs, committing a violent offense or throwing house parties with alcohol.
"It's going to focus on how it will affect them and their future if they do drugs or commit other crimes," Bristow said. "Because a lot of them don't think of the consequences to their futures."
The lesson has a large section on future consequences, which details how having a criminal record can affect a student's chances to participate in the military, attend certain colleges and work in certain jobs.
The lesson also explains when a juvenile can be charged as an adult for certain crimes, the differences between misdemeanors and felonies and what constitutes sexual battery/rape.
The Know the Law program operates in 23 Florida counties, and the substance abuse coalition has been trying to bring it to Manatee for the past two years, said Jessica Spencer, a project director for the coalition. SROs were trained at the sheriff's office on Monday and the classes will begin in October.
Each lesson is also printed in Spanish. Organizers of the program will present the lesson plan to the School Board on Tuesday.
Kate Irby, Herald online/political reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7055. You can follow her on Twitter @KateIrby