More than two-dozen Yorktown and Lakeland students don’t just follow the rules, they teach them in their own court of law.
On Wednesday, these students graduated from the first phase of their training of the Alliance for Safe Kids’ Youth Court, a court that allows for certain youth offenders in Yorktown to be heard by a jury of their own peers. The jury sentences them to an appropriate number of community service hours.
“I think it’s a sense of community. They care about what’s going on and they kind of realize from a student’s perspective ‘we’re not going out there and causing trouble’ and kids in our same school, our same age shouldn’t be out there causing trouble either,” said Kerry Cassidy, Youth Court co-director.
Art Lander, the Youth Court director who was also a former youth officer and Yorktown Police Officer for 35 years, explained the students have heard about 20 cases since the court’s inception in 2007. When they hear cases, they can give punishment of a maximum of 50 community service hours all the way down to about 8 or 10. Lander said the average is usually about 20 hours.
The evening was also a time for ASK and the court to thank those who have taught the students, including school resource officer Brian Mundy, Det. Brian Shanahan and Det. Sean Lewis. The idea of the program isn’t just for students who have an interest in law, said Cassidy, it’s also to help those students who have broken the law learn from their mistakes from their own peers rather than an adult.
“They want to share their experiences and kind of say you can get on the right track and this is what you can do to be a good student,” she said.