Students given second chance by courtroom of peers in Youth Court

Photo: WKRN

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Several schools are giving students who commit minor crimes a second chance. It’s part of Tennessee’s Youth Court program.

In Youth Court, students serve as attorneys, jurors, court clerks and court reporters, every roll except the judge.

“It gives those students who are studying law and trying to get to a career in law, it gives them that real life opportunity of going through a court case and going through the court process,” Judge Sheila Calloway told News 2.

Photo: WKRN
Photo: WKRN

The process isn’t just class work; it’s an actual trial. The rulings of the student jury go on record.

Students at the schools who are first time offenders and commit minor crimes can be sent to Youth Court instead of juvenile court downtown.

“We have some theft of property, shoplifting cases; we’ve had some disorderly conduct, some misdemeanor assault cases. Some of the minor cases that would go through our juvenile court are the ones that we pick to come through,” said Judge Calloway.

Photo: WKRN
Photo: WKRN

In youth court Wednesday, the defendant admitted to being out past curfew.

The jury deliberated and returned his penalty: to have an earlier curfew, community service and to see a tutor for his grades.

Judge Calloway told News 2 fewer than 4 percent of kids reoffend after going through Youth Court, compared to the 18 to 40 percent chance of coming back in Juvenile Court.

“That means they are getting a real second chance, that they are being heard by jurors of peers. They are being held accountable by people that they trust and they know and that are really taking care and concerned of getting something that is beneficial for that individual and that child,” she explained.

In addition to Whites Creek, Cane Ridge, Antioch and McGavock high schools all have youth courts in place.

This is the first for all of the schools except Cane Ridge, which started the program in 2011.

The Youth Court program handles about 400 cases a year.

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