The Public Defender and local school districts share the common goal of diverting juveniles from entry into the justice system. Youth Courts allow students referred for disciplinary infractions to be heard by a jury of their peers. The Youth Court program consists of students who participate in intensive training on restorative justice principles, then apply those principles to help student respondents understand who their infractions harmed and how to repair the harm they caused. These courts also reduce the burden on law enforcement responding to minor offenses in local schools and later having to appear in juvenile court.
Approximately 1,150 Youth Courts exist nationwide and we are dedicated to introducing them to Montgomery County. After their basic legal and restorative justice training, students hold hearings to determine the appropriate dispositions for student-respondents who break rules or commit low level offenses in school. Youth Courts use positive peer pressure to shape respondent behavior while also teaching student volunteers how to reach consensus and a fair decision. Youth Court students are supervised by one or two faculty members. Faculty and students are trained by volunteer attorney trainers, law and college students.