About the UT Law Youth Court
Who We Are
The UT Law Youth Court is a law student organization at The University of Texas School of Law in Austin, Texas. Law student officers and volunteers run a Youth Court program in a local middle school. The program is supervised by a School-to-Prison Pipeline attorney fellow and the UT Law Director of Pro Bono Programs, with support from the William Wayne Justice Center.
The UT Law Youth Court at Webb Middle School supports students who may be at risk of entering the school-to-prison pipeline by engaging them in a positive disciplinary program. To this end, the Youth Court:
- Establishes a peer-based accountability system to address student misconduct that emphasizes principles of restorative justice, self-reflection, and responsible adolescent behavior;
- Provides an alternative to punitive school consequences such as in-school suspension, suspension, expulsion, and ticketing, particularly for minor infractions and discretionary referrals; and
- Promotes student citizenship in the school community.
The UT Law Youth Court aims to:
- Be a formal disciplinary option for Webb Middle School that addresses disciplinary referrals but allows students to remain in their academic environments;
- Provide a model program that incorporates restorative justice, peer accountability, and positive and proactive disciplinary measures for other schools;
- Educate student participants about principles of restorative justice and coach students to model these principles in the greater school community;
- Impact student respondents and participants so they have lower rates of disciplinary referrals than the general student population;
- Teach middle school students about the U.S. legal system and the long-term consequences of school disciplinary systems;
- Teach participants how to assess underlying factors that may influence negative behavior and assign effective consequences to improve future behavior; and
- Instill a commitment in law student participants to advocate for the elimination of the school-to-prison pipeline.
- Train at least 30 Youth Court middle school participants in (a) restorative justice, (b) how to prepare for and administer hearings, (c) how to serve on a jury, and (d) elements of citizenship and the American justice system;
- Conduct at least 30 hearings for middle school respondents in the 2012-2013 school year;
- Affect participant and respondent behavior such that they have a lower incidence of receiving punitive disciplinary consequences including suspension, expulsion, or tickets;
- Track outcomes and demographics of Youth Court participants and respondents;
- Youth Court student participants will be able to identify and assign purposeful consequences to peer respondents that re-direct negative behavior in school;
- Jury members will be able to articulate the rationale behind the consequences they assign; and
- Respondents will complete consequences and return to Youth Court to participate in juries.