(PULASKI COUNTY, Ark.) – Pulaski County Special School District will launch a new program in the fall of 2020 as part of the curriculum for high school students.
The program, which will be named Juvenile Justice as a course option, is modeled after the Teen Court program. Teen Court is implemented at schools across the nation. Students who take the course will be trained to hear actual cases of offenses committed by other youth. Teen court participants serve as judge, jury and advocates and impose sanctions that reflect restorative justice principles. Teen courts can also link young people and their families to community resources that promote positive youth development.
“Teen Court serves the dual purpose of addressing the act committed by the offender while also acknowledging the harm and effect on the victim,” said Dr. Sherman Whitfield, Director of Pupil Services for PCSSD. “By bringing both parties together, we are able to build a stronger bridge to the school community using a restorative practice model.”
“It is no secret that Juvenile Justice Reform and addressing the needs of youth are very dear to my heart,” said Pulaski County judge Barry Hyde. “PCSSD is making tremendous strides and leading the state in Restorative Justice practices within their school district.”
Hyde also added that Pulaski County, and specifically the Youth Services Department, is excited to partner with PCSSD on the creation of a Teen Court class and system within the district to further advance juvenile justice reform in Pulaski County.
The teen court’s fundamental approach is restorative in nature, focusing on positive peer interactions, allowing the respondent to redress any harm done to the community and providing opportunities for positive youth development for both members and respondents. PCSSD staff will train, supervise and manage the teen court members and are responsible for ensuring respondents complete assigned sanctions.
The course is set up to allow 15-25 students per class. Students enrolled in the Juvenile Justice class at their corresponding high school will be assigned to roles to participate in Teen Court. Each teen must attend orientation and training, and agree to participate for a full school year.
“Pulaski County Special School District is committed to helping our students understand the juvenile justice system, their rights, and the impact crime, punishment and victimization can have on the community,” said Whitfield. “We have planned this roll-out over the last year and we are excited to add this course to our curriculum.”