Teen Court Program accepting sign-ups | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Teen Court Program accepting sign-ups

Eric Heinz

Real-world experience is a direct way to inspire children, and students have a chance to participate in hands-on education by signing up for The Teen Court Program.

The program enables students grades eight through 12 to experience the juvenile court system on a minor scale, but with legitimate cases. Students are able to sentence their peers, under age 18, who have primarily been put through probationary programs after being found guilty of a crime.

At the El Dorado County Courthouse, students will work with local attorneys, acting as judges, bailiffs, junior lawyers and more — anything a regular trial would have.

“Kids have been recruited through the schools and counselors, and teachers refer them,” said supervising health education coordinator Hector Reyes, who works with the El Dorado County’s alcohol and drug program under the Mental Health Division.

The Teen Court Program began in 1992 in El Dorado County and it is funded through the El Dorado County Health & Human Services Agency, Mental Health Division, Alcohol and Drug Programs, according to a news release from the county. “Cases are referred and managed by the El Dorado County Probation Department,” the release stated.

County health education coordinator Jorge Orozco will instruct the program under the guidance of the El Dorado County justice officials.

The teen court helps develop a sense of consequences of actions while giving kids a chance to be involved with community affairs, he said.

Orozco said he posted fliers wherever he could, including at schools, community centers and libraries.

“It’s an opportunity for them to research juvenile offenders,” he said. “Compared to other programs, it has high-level effectiveness. They learn to think on their feet.”

Orozco said there is a local whose daughter went through the teen court program, and she just graduated from law school.

“(The students) become role models for other kids,” Orozco said.

Organizers expect about 30 to 60 children to be involved this year, Orozco said.

The sign-up for the teen court program is 5 p.m. Thursday at Department 4 in at El Dorado Superior Court, located at 1354 Johnson Blvd. in South Lake Tahoe. Teen court proceedings will take place from Oct. 17 to May. Any students who are residents of El Dorado County can participate, and home-school and private schools students may also join the program. There is no charge to join the program, but students will need to fill out and application and have a parental or guardian’s signature in order to participate.

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