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After only two months, Peer Court is having a powerful effect on Leland Middle School. More than a dozen students have volunteered to be part of this alternative juvenile justice program.
“Kids don’t feel like they have any power over anything,” said seventh-grader Sydney Parker, appreciating that in Peer Court students have the power and responsibility to make a difference in their school.
First-time offenders admit their mistake, and then the student attorneys debate the merits of the case. A jury of their peers reviews the facts and determines a constructive sentence.
“I like to help kids out when they’re sorry for what they did,” explained Sa’Quan Carr.
Fellow defense attorney Chase Coston agrees. “Taking responsibility and fixing what you did wrong is better than getting suspended. That just takes you away from learning.”
Students work with adult volunteer mentors to review the law or school rules broken by the defendants. They discuss mitigating circumstances and the consequence of the actions.
When the cases are decided and the sentences carried out, the defendants have a clean record and a second chance to earn the trust and respect of their teachers, parents and classmates.
Peer Court is a partnership program between Communities in Schools and the DA’s office, started in Brunswick County with the generous support of the Shallotte Rotary, South Brunswick Islands Rotary and the Southport-Oak Island Kiwanis Clubs.
It is now available at all county middle schools. To learn more about Peer Court, call 253-5327, ext. 1713 or visit www.cisbrunswick.org.