Youth Court Helps Students Get Back On Track


Kate Payne

On May 9, 2017, Utah House Bill 239 took effect, making it possible for cities in Utah to establish their own youth courts. So they set about doing just that. Timpview students are now able to join youth court and work with and help their peers that are struggling.

Youth court is an alternative to juvenile court, available to children ages 18 and younger who have a class B misdemeanor or below. It focuses on restorative justice rather than punishment.

Luz Kaouk, who has been participating in youth court this year, said, “We really tend to focus on how we can reguide these people or how we can help them. They’ve just started going down the wrong path or they have bad influences in their lives and so we try to kind of get them steered in the right direction.”

Often, steering them in the right direction means giving the participants an assignment that will make up for whatever they did. It can mean service hours or journal writing. The court is focused on getting the kids back on the right track, so if they can think of something that they think will help them, then that’s what they will assign.

“We’ll give them community service, we’ll give them papers, assignments, and we often try to get them geared towards getting better grades in school or getting better attendance, and it really is just to help these kids,” Luz said.

It’s very focused on helping the kids that go through the program get back on the right track. The panels really try to get all sides of the story. They will often start by interviewing the kid, asking for their side. Then they will ask them to leave the room, and they’ll talk to the parents by themselves. Sometimes they’ll even talk to someone from school to try and see what’s going on there.

So how do cases get chosen to go to youth court? Officer Breckenridge, the school resource officer for Timpview, outlined the process. “Cases that would be selected would be any cases where they’re class B misdemeanors and below. It’s for juveniles, so anyone under 18. We don’t have any age limit as to how low it can go, but it’d be selected by officers doing the report on the case or the school can also refer any type of crime that happened here. They refer it to youth court, and the officer over youth court selects it and accepts it.”

It’s also a completely voluntary process, so once the case has been accepted by the youth court then the officer over youth court will call the parents of the child and explain to them what youth court is and what their options are, and they can choose whether they want to take the youth court route or not.

The court is run by students from high schools and middle schools in Provo. The school resource officers from each school are also involved, but most of the court is run by the students. Officer Breckenridge said that students are chosen to participate based on teacher and administration recommendation, interest in law or law enforcement, but most importantly, he said, “We’re looking for kids that are good examples in society. We’re just looking for outstanding kids that want to do it. Right now we’re trying to reach out to kids for next year.”

If you think you might be interested in joining youth court, talk to Officer Breckenridge and get an application from him.