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PCSSD to implement teen court program for high school students

Teens will serve as judge, jury, and advocates and be trained to hear actual cases of offenses committed by students.

PULASKI COUNTY, ARKANSAS, Ark. — If students misbehave at school, they may have to answer to their peers.

This fall, the Pulaski County Special School District will start a teen court program for high school students.

Director of Pupil Services Sherman Whitfield said juniors and seniors at PCSSD who’ve taken Civics can sign up for a course called "Juvenile Justice." It’s a teen court program that you can find in schools across the nation.

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“As a result of going to visit other schools who have a teen court and are practicing an actual teen court, we have decided after investigating, having meetings, to actually implement a teen court model for the 2021 school year,” Sherman said.

Teens will serve as judge, jury, and advocates and be trained to hear actual cases of offenses committed by students.

“That student will appear before the court, and the court is a court of their peers. And their peers will decide the sentence for that student,” Sherman said.

It bridges the gap between the offender as well as the victims.

School leaders hope this will illustrate the harm done to others by breaking laws.

“With teen court, the victim also has a voice, and we’re talking about restoring students back to the school community, if you will. And that’s something that we’re very lacking in our discipline within schools,” Sherman said.

The director hopes it will spark more ideas.

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"I truly believe as a result of this course, some will find their interest and maybe even their life's calling,” Sherman said.

There will be 15 to 20 students per class who will be assigned roles.

They must attend training and agree to participate the whole school year.

Judge Mark Leverett is the presiding judge who will oversee the cases and decisions made.