Chatham County, GA (December 16, 2022) – Through the J. W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development, a Public Service and Outreach unit at the University of Georgia, the Mediation Center of the Coastal Empire and the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System received training and technical assistance to start a Youth Court in Chatham County. The pilot program kicked off in October with four high schools.
Youth court is a youth-led diversionary program for youth who have repeatedly broken school code of conduct rules. Instead of receiving the traditional discipline of the schools, the youth will appear at a disposition hearing administered by trained youth volunteers. Benefits of the program include reduced recidivism, youth leadership, rapid response, positive peer pressure, and cost-effectiveness.
“Youth seem to respond to this positive peer pressure better than sanctions from adults. We hope youth court reduces recidivism, involves more youth in addressing the issues facing our community, and allows us to develop future leaders,” Sherlisa Praylo, Director of Restorative Conferencing and Community Outreach at the Mediation Center. “Youth Court has been a valuable addition to our district. The program equips students with the skills to help their peers accept responsibility for their actions in a constructive manner. Youth Court harnesses the power of positive peer influence. Students engage in restorative practices that teach lifelong lessons. We are looking forward to the continued growth and impact of Youth Court,” Julian Childers III, Associate Superintendent, Secondary Schools, Savannah Chatham County Public Schools.
Restorative Youth Court allows you to hear from other youth regarding their behaviors and why those behaviors do not meet the standards of the school community. When asked why he wanted Youth Court created, high school youth volunteer Mark Smith stated, “Starting youth court will be a great opportunity to keep youth members of the community from receiving the school’s standard disciplinary system, which will strike against a student’s record. It provides a second chance without tanking one’s record and reputation in the school system. It also provides those that participate a brief knowledge of the law system and experience on how it works.”
Restorative Youth Court plans to grow in 2023 with enhancements to the program and the recruitment of more volunteers. The Mediation Center will hold a training session for adult volunteers on January 25-26, 2023. For more information, mediationsavannah.com/youth-court/