Quaker Valley Peer Jury Program
What is the Peer Jury Program?
It is a school-based court diversion program which is student-driven and built on the principles of Balanced and Restorative Justice (BARJ). It is designed to provide a meaningful and remedial method of dealing with selected student offenders without reference to the Courts. It does not determine guilt or innocence. A case is only sent to the Peer Jury for hearing by a jury of students and an adult moderator when (1) the offender admits having committed the offense; (2) the responsible police officer determines that such a disposition is appropriate; and (3) the offender and his/her parent or guardian consent in writing to such a disposition and sign appropriate releases in relation to releases of information, confidentiality, and student rights.
When these conditions are met, the offender and his/her parent or guardians are invited for a hearing before a Peer Jury panel at a definite date and time. At the hearing, the foreman reads the charges, states the possible sentence if the offense was committed by an adult, and summarizes the facts of the case. The members of the panel then ask the offender about the offense, school, home life, activities, and other underlying background information. The parent/guardian is also encouraged to participate if they wish to. The offender and his/her parent or guardians then withdraw while the jury deliberates and fixes appropriate accountability, competency development, and victim restoration recommendations which are outlined in a contract. If the student agrees to the terms of the contract, they are given a certain amount of time to complete the requested items. Offenders are held accountable for their actions and must reflect on them.
What are the typical offenses referred to a peer jury?
Criminal Mischief, Institutional Vandalism, Disorderly Conduct, Possession of a Controlled Substance, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Tobacco, Truancy, Underage Drinking, Harassment, Simple Assault, and minor violations of the weapons policy. This is a sample and is not all-inclusive or a required list. Each administrator for a peer jury, along with input from local law enforcement personnel decide which offenses will be eligible for referral to peer jury.
What are some examples of accountability, competency development, and victim restoration that the Peer Jury may ask a student to complete?
- Report to school official or Peer Juror as requested for mentoring
- Community Service
- Apology written or formal
- Improve school grades, discipline, and/or attendance
- Extra chores at home
- Essay on respect for rights and/or property of others
- Essay on drugs and alcohol
- Creating awareness bulletin boards in the school
- Evaluations and counseling
- Research paper
- Attend tutoring
- Victim mediation
- Submit evidence of a negative drug test from an outside agency or pediatrician
- No contact with victim, co-violators etc.
- Dismiss with warning and reprimand-no contract
**** Be creative and think of something that they believe will help the offender improve
Juror Selection, Rules and Requirements
Appointment until graduation
- Students who wish to apply obtain applications through the school
- An applicant must be in at least 10th grade at the time of appointment
- Peer Jurors must have a the following for a complete application packet: Completed information form, written essay about the reason they wish to serve on the Peer Jury, permission form from parent/guardian, completed recommendation forms from a sponsoring faculty and staff member. All applications are reviewed by the Peer Jury director and high school administration.
- Applicants must attend an interview which is the final step before the selection process begins.
- Upon selection, jurors must attend a mandatory one-day training. Trained jurors must attend an orientation and mock case session. Jurors must be sworn in by a local judge and take an Oath of Confidentiality. Failure to attend any of these will delay a juror beginning their tenure in the program.
- Peer jurors are expected to attend hearings on an as needed basis not to exceed once per month.
- Jurors disqualify themselves from the jury if they have a conflict or special relationship with the offender. They are required to report any attempts to intimidate or influence them.
- Former offenders who express an interest in being a peer juror and have received a recommendation from a faculty or staff member may apply if they have remained out of trouble for at least twelve months after their release from the program.
Under what authority will the Peer Jury operate?
The provisions of Chapter 10 issued under section 1302.1-A of the Public School Code of 1949 (24 P. S. § 13-1302.1-A), which encourages and defines the use as follows:
School-based diversion program—A program that, in partnership with other stakeholders, diverts youth out of the juvenile justice system. A program may include a youth aid panel in which a panel of community members decides an appropriate resolution to hold a student accountable for the student’s actions by, among other options, requiring the student to complete educational activities, community service, restitution and any other related program or service.
United States Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention
“Peer Justice and Youth Empowerment: An Implementation Guide for Teen Court Programs”
“Teen courts are emerging as a promising mechanism for holding youth charged with
status offenses, such as alcohol possession and misdemeanor offenses accountable, and for
promoting and providing avenues for positive development. Teen courts provide jurisdictions
with an alternative method of sanctioning these youthful offenders, whom the formal juvenile
justice system often ignores due to the need to focus on more serious offenders.”
Report of the Advisory Committee on the Use and Effect of Youth Courts in Pennsylvania’s Education and Juvenile Justice Systems (July 2019)