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Teens in Court

Teen Court in Session Brunswick County making a difference in the lives of teens STORY by Todd Beane & Jamie Duesing (CIS) Sometimes kids need a second chance. We’ve all done something in our past maybe we shouldn’t have. It’s part of learning from your mistakes, right? Brunswick County has an excellent program that allows teens, peers and mentors hold a teen court simulation, to do just that, give those a second chance that need it. Here is the scoop. (Article provided by Todd Beane and Jamie Duesing)

Fewer Brunswick County students are dropping out of school today. Brunswick County dropout rate was 3.82% and in 2015-2016, it had dropped to 3.28%. This is good news for students in our community, as staying in school and graduating gives Brunswick County students the best chance for success. They are becoming better prepared for a successful life and are setting and achieving the goal of completing high school and pursuing college, career, or military service following graduation. When students succeed, our communities succeed. The lower dropout rate is a result of many factors. One of those contributing factors is Communities In Schools of Brunswick County (CIS) programs that intervene with at-risk students. More specifically, CIS Peer Court and Teen Court programs directly affect students’ futures and reduce county court costs in the process. The CIS Peer Court program operates in all five Brunswick County middle schools, serving first-time middle school offenders and offering volunteer opportunities for students to learn about the judicial system. Peer Court is funded by CIS and support from Brunswick County Schools. Teen Court provides the same services and opportunities to high school students. Teen Court is a partnership between CIS and the Brunswick County District Attorney’s Office, made possible through financial support provided by the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council, CIS and Brunswick County. Both programs are diversion programs allowing offenders to take responsibility for their offense, have their case heard by a jury of peers, and complete a constructive sentence. This allows youth to avoid a juvenile record if they successfully complete their sentencing requirements. Both programs are highly effective with very few juveniles reoffending within one year of completing their sentencing requirements. Last year the recidivism rate for Teen Court was 4.2% and 11.8% for Peer Court. “The Teen Court program is one of the very best things that we do in the criminal justice system,” said District Attorney Jon David. “Simultaneously, we are able to give consequences to behavior while also providing a teaching moment to our youth. I cannot say enough about the collaborative relationship between the District Attorney’s office and CIS.” Peer Court cases are heard monthly at each middle school during after school hours. Teen Court cases are heard in a courtroom at the Brunswick County Courthouse one evening each month. Parents must participate in the Peer and Teen Court process as well, along with their child who committed the offense. Student volunteers are mentored in legal procedures by adult volunteers from the community who have legal backgrounds as well as local attorneys and judges who volunteer their time to hear cases. Both programs show the powerful impact of partnerships: with members of the legal system, a local non-profit, and the community successfully coming together to have a positive effect on local youth. Tommy, a Teen Court student volunteer attorney shared, “Teen Court has been a life altering experience. I have been able to practice my public speaking skills and work with so many wonderful people in our community. Teen Court serves a great purpose in Brunswick County by giving teens the opportunity of a second chance and a better life.” Peer Court and Teen Court provide a “hands on” educational experience for student volunteers in an effort to help them better understand our system of justice. Student volunteers serve as attorneys, jurors, bailiffs and clerks in real cases involving first-time juvenile offenders. “I love working with Peer Court and being able to help other students who have done wrong and give them a second chance without hurting their permanent record. My favorite role is a prosecutor in Peer Court, but I also like mentoring younger students and teaching them how the court system works. I will definitely stay involved with Teen Court when I go on to high school,” said Cedar Grove Middle School Peer Court student volunteer Mikayla. Caleb, an eighth grade volunteer student attorney from Shallotte Middle School said, “Peer Court is an amazing experience that allows kids to experience the legal world. Because of what Peer Court has helped me learn, I plan to become a lawyer. Peer Court allowed me to see how lawyers work and do trials. There is a real judge and adult lawyers who volunteer that help the kid lawyers learn. A Peer Court trial is nothing short of amazing.” Training Brunswick County Teen Court will hold student volunteer trainings at the Brunswick County Courthouse. Students in grades 9-12 can volunteer and will be trained to serve as attorneys, jurors, bailiffs, and clerks in Teen Court cases involving first-time juvenile offenders. Brunswick County Teen Court is a partnership program between Communities In Schools and the Brunswick County District Attorney’s Office, made possible through financial support provided by the Juvenile Crime Prevention Council and Brunswick County. Student volunteers get a hands-on educational experience that helps them better understand our system of justice. Juvenile offenders participating in this diversion program saves the county at least $2,000 per case. Last year, January – December 2017, 81 defendants were served and student volunteers donated 1,828 hours of their time to participate in the program. If you have questions about Teen Court, please contact Jamie Duesing, Teen Court Director at 910-253-4087 or Visit Brunswick County Teen Court on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter for more information and updates.

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