California Educator

June/July 2019

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include vandalism, assault and battery, sexual harassment, reckless driving, and drug abuse. e accused come from different high schools throughout the Los Angeles area and are only identified by their first name. Before proceedings begin , it must be determined that none of the jurors know the accused and vice versa. S t u d e n t s s e r v i n g a s j u r o r s a s k qu e stions of th e ac cused , d eli b erat e to determine guilt or innocence, and make sent en cin g re c omm end ation s. Jurors have found students inno cent on o c ca sion . For e xampl e, a stud ent was ac cused of b att er y for pl acin g a hot metal object on another student at a party, but when jurors learned it was a game and no coercion was involved, they found him not guilty. To get a fuller picture of the accused, j u r o r s c a n a s k a b o u t t h e i r g r a d e s , whether they abuse drugs, their plans for th e future, and hobbies or spor ts they enjoy. Often, they will recommend commu- nity service aligned with the offender's interests, such as working in an after- school art program if they enjoy art or receiving mentoring in a subject they are interested in for a career. "The goal is to get student offenders involved in positive activities instead of taking things away from them," says Botchie. "We want to add good things to their lives." Botchie created a training program for Teen Court participants at her school, who can fulfill requirements for govern- ment class or community service through participation . She estimates that 500 students per year are involved in the pro- ceedings. Botchie also sponsors a Teen Court Club. "The kids love it," she says. "There is no place else where kids who aren't old enough to vote can be so involved in gov- ernment. And these are not mock trial cases; they are real. ese jurors live very similar lives to the accused. It's the truest jury of peers you can ever imagine." ere is always a judge to oversee pro- ceedings, who in this case is Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Eleanor Hunter. She bangs the gavel three times to let students know court is in session, assigns students in the audience to be jurors, and swears them in. e bailiffs, members of the school's Junior Reserve Officers' Training Corps ( JROTC), escort the accused into the courtroom, along with their parent or guardian. The accused in this case is accom- panied by her mother, who hands her daughter a tissue to wipe away tears while the girl answers questions about events leading to her arrest. She readily admits that she is indeed guilty of stealing the rings Marie Botchie is coordinator for Redondo Union High School's Teen Court. Behind her is LA County Superior Court Judge Eleanor Hunter, judge for the day's proceedings. " Our goal is to take kids who have made mistakes and turn them around, so they can be a strong member of their school and community." —Marie Botchie, Redondo Beach Teachers Association Hannah Nemeth, jury foreperson and co-president of the Teen Court Club, asks the accused a question. 47 J U N E / J U L Y 2 019

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