School-Based Youth Courts: Early Interventions for Delinquency Prevention

Jessica Ashley, Gang Crime Prevention Center

School administrators have been grappling with ways to effectively address student misconduct. In many cases, traditional sanctions of detention, suspension, and expulsion are not effective because they do not provide individualized responses geared to address the needs and problems of students. This paper will describe a program, called "youth court" which may offer a more meaningful response to misconduct. Youth courts originated by law enforcement as a diversion from juvenile court, but recently schools have begun using them to handle school rule violations, not crimes. While the limited research that has been done on youth courts has been favorable, no studies have focused solely on school-based youth courts. Therefore, this paper recognizes that further research needs to be completed in order to determine its effectiveness. Youth courts, also referred to as teen courts or peer juries, allow sentencing to be determined by other youth. Initial misconduct of youth, often occurs at school and those students who commit school infractions are more likely to become delinquent. Therefore, programs such as youth courts, have the potential to prevent youth involvement in criminal activity. At the least, youth courts allow those students who would be removed from school through suspension and expulsion, to remain in school while holding them accountable for their actions.

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Updated 05/20/2006