Chapter 1 Introduction
If students are to succeed within the confines of the school community, all involved stockholders must create a positive, safe and encouraging learning environment. In order for the stockholders to develop this environment, everyone must feel respected by and involved in the school community. Creating an effective school climate must be a community process so that all involved can thrive. Standard, exclusionary models of discipline in the school systems work against this concept of education and only decrease students’ success. This is particularly true for low income and minority students. More promising models of school discipline are those based on the Teen Court systems of justice. These models rely on peer and community concepts of discipline enforcement. When used in an educational setting, Teen Court is proving to be more effective in reducing recidivism and dropout rates. Rather than promoting a culture of exclusionary and punitive justice for youth, Teen Court models effectively discipline, while promoting a culture of safe and positive education (Harrison et al, 2001).
The data related to the biggest school districts of California reveals a much higher level of expulsion and suspension of students for the year 2009-10, and the statistics for California are a lot higher as compared to the rest of the country. While the rate for California remained 9.9 percent for both expulsion and suspension put together, the overall average for the nation was a much lower 7 percent (Losen and Skiba, 2010). However, in various cases in the state of California, there were even more harsh measures adopted against students; the combined rate of expulsion and suspension sits at 25 percent (Losen, 2011). On the other hand, the rate of expulsion and suspension in some California schools reached a staggering 40 percent (Skiba, 2000). According to various researches which have been carried out on this topic, the problems faced by certain students are compounded due to expulsions and suspensions, thereby magnifying the achievement bridge which divides Caucasian children and the children who come from different ethnicities (Skiba et al, 2002).
As a consequence, there happens to be an increased involvement of students in the justice system dealing with juveniles and the more startling revelation through these researches has been the tendency to punish children from Latino and African American ethnicities to be punished much more harshly as compared to Caucasian students. The US Education Department analyzed the sample, based on a national study, out of the total percentage of students in schools, only 18 percent of the students are African American, although a high percentage of them (39 percent received expulsions and 34 percent received suspensions) (Losen and Skiba, 2010). If the data on law-enforcement is anything to go by, the policies pertaining to discipline of students in the state of California have become excessive and harsh with the passage of time. Rather than prevention of problems and accountability of students, schools’ policies of disciplining the students have become excessively focused on expulsions and suspensions of students for infractions which are mostly non-violent and minor in nature and magnitude (Costenbader et al, 1998).
There is a strong possibility of individuals with tendencies of criminal behavior at a young age to persist with such undesirable tendencies later on in life, until they become adults (Katsiyannis, Barrett and Willson, 2007).
From the year 1980 to 2003, an increase from 58% to 71% has been seen in the number of arrests that were sent to juvenile court. Among these violations committed by juveniles are those that are mentioned as ‘status offenses’. Status offenses are defined to be those actions that are illegal just because a juvenile is committing them. The definition of a status offence and its magnitude of offense vary from state to state but the four main categories of status offenses include running away, truancy, under age liquor violations, and un-governability (Woolard and Scott, 2009).
Recent policy developments have seen a shift; attention and funding are being diverted away from juvenile diversion programs (Patrick et al, 2004). Juvenile justice jurisdictions in different areas of USA have cut down the funding for diversion and early intervention programs in an attempt to get harsher on juvenile crime. A misguided view appears regarding state legislators have worked to minimize funding for these programs and to redeploy cost savings to eradicate juvenile justice programs. Sustained by the disturbing increase and effects of youth crimes, especially violent ones, a lot more delinquency offenses are being referred to in the juvenile court (Siegel and Welsh, 2011).
Although the rate of crimes committed by the youth has declined since 1994, legal offenders have become increasingly punishing. In the past few years, laws have been designed and implemented which treat young offenders more like adults. Trial and sentence charges have been expanded for juveniles, age limit for the juveniles has been changed, who can be now be tried and sentenced as adults (Steinberg, 2008). Simultaneously, a fundamentally distinct system of juvenile system has been cultivated, that with the intention and diversion for first time, non violent offenders. This has different names, variably referred as Teen court, Youth Court or Peer courts; they give the young offenders a chance to plead guilty and are punished by a jury of other teens. Once the punishment has been completed, charges are also cleared from records (Butts, Buck, & Coggeshall, 2002).
Purpose of the Study
The primary ground for this study is to provide an analysis that contributes to the authorization of schools to lower suspension and expulsion rates, an action considered to be both hostile and volatile. By implementing the Teen court examples in schools, a lot can be learnt on not only the depreciation of suspension and expulsion figures but also the extension of educational success. This study also portrays the impact of Teen court on students and its effects on the overall school culture and atmosphere.
Recently, educational institutes have dealt with severe behavioral problems amongst students by using the weapons of suspension or expulsion. The fundamental reason for merging a Teen Court in the school’s discipline policy is to give a new view to punishments and punishment methods. Often both suspensions and expulsions are the first punishments given to solve behavior issues amongst students,: Teen court models will engage in methods like counseling, detention, restitution, methods holding less magnitude of punishment but possessing a greater gravity of impact.
1. How can Teen courts be merged with the school’s administration policy? Which of the four models can be best applied to different schools?
2. How beneficial are teen courts for schools holding extremely high figures of expulsion and suspension?
1. How are suspension and expulsion rates reduced by the use of teen courts?
2. What are some concerns and opinions of the stakeholders and how does it affect the implantation and integration of teen courts in a school’s administration policy.
Definition of Terms
Stockholders: A climate which is positive at school involves everyone —students, parents, staff and the entire community.
Chapter 2 Literature Review
The literature suggests that peer and community models of justice, like those in Teen Courts, are an effective form of discipline because they reduce recidivism, in addition to diverting first time offenders, thereby preventing them from getting trapped in the cycle of offence. They promise to be more effective models if used in schools, as opposed to standard disciplinary measures adopted by the conventional juvenile justice system.
A program put to use for diversion of juveniles is usually called teen courts (TC), which is carefully designed in a way to inhibit the processing of juvenile offenders who are fist timers. The purpose of teen courts is the prevention of processing of juvenile offenders in a formal way. Conversely, in order to curb such tendencies of offense in the youth, sanctions and processing of juvenile offenders is the line of action adopted by TC (Teen Court) (Stickle, Connell, Wilson & Gottfredson, 2008).
1B. Major Themes and Sections of Literature Review
The major themes and sections of the literature review include Teen Court models, standard measures in schools and court, in addition to popularity and effectiveness of teen courts. Moreover, the literature review will also analyze the impact of Teen Court on the community.