CHICAGO — There was something fishy happening at Wendell Smith Elementary on the Far South Side on Friday, and the situation gave Chicago Public Schools (CPS) students a lesson in the legal process. 

A school of fish stays together, but at this school, the fish was driving the principal and his students apart.

The dispute centered on Pepper the goldfish, who had lived in a bowl in Mrs. Jackson’s classroom from March until June, but when school let out for the summer, pepper was left living in a fish bowl, with nobody watching.

Principal Crockett claimed that he came to Pepper’s rescue after bringing the fish to his office over the summer, where he took care of it, and after spending the summer with Pepper, he claimed custody of the fish. But when students returned to class last month, they were upset about Pepper’s new home and demanded the return of the fish. 

When Principal Crockett refused to give Pepper back, Mrs. Jackson’s students took him to court. 

P.E. teacher Damon Taylor acted as the judge and the eighth-grade student council acted as the jury as they decided where Pepper rightfully belonged. 

Students decided that Pepper was to return to Mrs. Jackson’s classroom, but the process offered the students the chance to learn the components of a court proceeding and the language of the law, providing insights into the legal system and illustrating how it is used as a way to resolve arguments without violence.