NJ high school students draft bill that was signed by President Trump into law

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HIGHTSTOWN -

A group of New Jersey high school students can say that they drafted a bill that was actually signed into law by a United States president.

President Donald Trump signed the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act at the beginning of the year. The law is designed to bring justice to civil rights cold cases.

The Hightstown High School community rallied hard to get the bill signed into law.

“And the entire community was frantically trying to get the president to sign this bill,” says teacher Stuart Wexler.

This included tweeting to President Trump, calling members of Congress and even pursuing the president’s “midnight advisers.”

“So the New York Times had put out an article with literally all the pictures of people President Trump talks to at 1 a.m.,” Wexler says.

But eventually, the act was signed into law.

"So much nervousness. So much anxiety but one thing Mr. Wexler always taught us was … persevere,” says senior Karan Buddala.

The process of drafting the bill initially began in 2015 by four classes that Wexler taught.

The Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act expands access to information that could help solve cold case crimes.

The students took the JFK Assassination Act, which was about collecting records, changed the language, and added information from the Emmitt Till Act, which allows the reopening of cases of racially suspicious violent crimes that were committed during the pre-Civil Rights era.

“You’re seeing moments in our history where injustice was just the norm,” says former student Oslene Johnson, who graduated in 2017.

Injustices like the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Alabama in the 1960s. Four young black girls were killed. Decades later, two members of the Ku Klux Klan were finally brought to justice.

"Solving and successfully prosecuting an almost 40-year-old case was no easy task,” said Democratic Alabama Sen. Doug Jones.

Jones became one of the sponsors of the bill in Washington and became one of the first to support the Hightstown students. The bill was also co-sponsored by Republican Sen. Ted Cruz, ensuring bipartisan support.

There are still more than 100 cold cases from the civil rights era still left unsolved. The Cold Case Act calls for a panel appointed by the President to review requests for the release of information related to these cases. Students say it's up to them to make sure the spirit of this law is protected.

The students are planning a trip to Washington D.C. to learn more about the U.S. government. They are raising money for the trip through a GoFundMe page.

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