Mar 7, 2013 6:23 PM by Chris Welty
One Acadiana high school is taking a unique approach to discipline students. Their own peers are deciding how they should be punished.
Teen Court is an alternative to school board policy. It keep students in the classroom and avoids school suspension or after school detention.
Every Tuesday and Thursday, Teen Court is in session at Northside High School. Students can either present their case in a courtroom of their peers or stick to the traditional discipline procedures.
"We handle a variety of infractions anywhere from skipping class, leaving campus without permission, disrespect and any profanity," said Liz Tullier, Director of the Legal Academy at Northside High.
Students have about ten minutes to present their case and for the jury to issue a punishment.
"It gives the students an opportunity to not have the discipline on their permanent record," said Tullier.
In Teen Court it's peers judging peers, but is it difficult to issue a punishment?
"I don't find it difficult to give them a punishment because I look at it in the sense of they could have a worse punishment than what they get from Teen Court," said Victoria Ned.
Jurors are sworn to confidentiality and must recuse themselves if they know the defendant. Punishment is on-campus community service and a written apology to their teacher explaining how they could have avoided getting into trouble.
Students who run Teen Court are getting first hand insight of how the legal system works.
"Usually when a teacher writes someone up it's final, but I learned everybody has a side and they need to be heard," said Ned.
Students have thirty days to complete their sentence. If they do not complete their punishment, the case will be given to the dean of students.
Some students on Teen Court are part of the Northside Mock Trial team. This Saturday, they'll compete in Lake Charles to defend their three-time regional championship title.