High school court providing lessons
There is much to like about the Johnson County Court Services youth court program at De Soto High School, which has students trying -- and perhaps sentencing -- other students for minor offenses in a process that has the teens acting as judge, jury, attorneys and other roles of the criminal justice system.
Obviously, the program would give students an education in the court system much more interesting and memorable than that learned from a textbook. It is also a lesson that comes with consequences in the form of sentencing, a hands-on experience that invites introspection.
The program also benefits the general public by reducing the load on the De Soto Municipal Court.
But the greatest benefit is the offenders who learn from their experiences before peers. Johnson County youth court director John Cox told The Explorer last month the program encourages teens to think of novel and constructive ways to modify bad behavior. Although the court attempts to avoid punitive sentences, there are consequences in the form of community service or letters of apology.
What the court does is put legal force behind peer pressure. That to most offenders it is probably more difficult to face the condemnation of peers than that of an unknown judge likely increases the effectiveness of sentences. In that, the program succeeds in the most basic goal of public education of preparing better citizens.