When middle and high school students get in trouble with the law and/or school for low-level crimes, there are a few options that can help them return to the right path while avoiding excessively harsh punishments. One such option is Teen Court, a diversion program available to qualifying first-time juvenile offenders.
Vantage Pointe staff oversee and administrate Teen Court in New Hanover and Pender counties. Youth who get in trouble at school can be referred directly from law enforcement and School Resource Officers at the time of the incident. Other youth may be diverted from Juvenile and District Court rather than going through formal adult prosecution.
The program is designed to help youth who have made a mistake take responsibility for their actions (they must admit guilt to participate in the program), and uses “positive peer pressure” to reinforce mature behavior. Student volunteers and previous youth offenders serve in all courtroom positions, including prosecuting and defense attorneys, clerks, jurors and bailiffs; an adult judge presides. Student defendants must agree to be held accountable for their actions by accepting and completing the sentence given by the peer jury.
Youth volunteers learn how the judicial system works, and provide a valuable community service which may meet Beta Club, National Honor Society, or other school-related service requirements.
Participating in Teen Court empowers youth to be decision makers, public speakers, and critical thinkers, and teaches them that even as youth, they have the ability to hold themselves and others to high standards of behavior in their schools and communities.