In the fall of 1994, City High School teacher Wayne Bentley became involved in minority representation on the local juries. Since then he has remained involved in community service and has involved his students in a number of important community projects.
Through an organized study involving monitoring sitting juries, he discovered that there was a gross underrepresentation of minorities. It became apparent that minority defendants were not being tried by a jury of their peers. Bentley, along with his students, set out to rectify this situation by drawing attention to the problem in the local bar association through a video and brochure explaining the situation along with recommendations for improvements. Many of his ideas were adopted by the court system.
As a consequence of his initiative, the governor of Michigan appointed Bentley to the Kent County Jury Board. From this post, he is helping to implement and monitor the recommended changes. As a jury commissioner, he is writing a State Judicial Institute Grant because the Court lacks the resources and funding to implement all of the recommendations. Along with the Bar Association, he is creating a model that will empower the process of jury selection to contain minorities in proportion to their population in the community.
Last fall, Bentley and his students organized a political debate forum. This forum involved several candidates running for state and federal office. Hosted by Bentley and his students, the forum has occurred during several previous elections. The events present the community with vital access to candidates and the community has responded well with a large attendance. The local press reports on the forums as well. Future debates such as this are slated to occur every congressional election year.
Besides providing for the improvement and education of the community, Wayne Bentley has created the opportunity and created models for active student participation in the community, both under his tutelage and through individual initiatives. Bentley also serves as the MEA Union Representative for City High Middle School in Grand Rapids, MI. His teaching duties at this school also include debate coach, quiz bowl coach, senior class advisor, science Olympiad coach and the City High Times Newspaper advisor.