Why this Raytown dad brought his black son to Know Your Rights event

Rudolph Pieters’ son Isaac was in middle school when Pieters started taking him to municipal court to sit in on cases during his son’s summer break.

Together, father and son sat in the back and watched people get sentenced. To this day, they remember the guy who had shoplifted so many times from Walmart that he was was banned from every metropolitan store for life.

“For me it was like, ‘This is what you shouldn’t do. This is what could happen,’ ” said Isaac, now a high school sophomore and a member of the Kansas City Youth Court.

For Pieters, who lives in Raytown, it was not just about helping his son understand that bad behavior has real consequences. The court visits were another entryway into a conversation that he would raise often with his son — that as a black young adult he would have little room for error when it comes to interactions with law enforcement.

“As a person of color, an African-American, we know the history of the adversarial relationship with the law and particular ethnic groups,” Pieters said. “I think one of the things we have to do is arm ourselves with knowledge.”

So on Saturday, Pieters, Isaac and two family friends, LeAhnna Seals, 13, and Erin Seals, 12, woke up early to attend a “Know Your Rights” event hosted by the UMKC School of Law and the Kansas City Youth Court.

The youth court — in which high school volunteers actually represent juveniles, prosecute juveniles…

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