This is the Final Report on a study that evaluated the effectiveness of School-Based Teen Courts (SBTCs), which featured restorative justice and replaced punitive administrative disciplinary practices with community service sanctions determined by a peer jury.
The goal of the SBTCs was to retain students with disciplinary problems engaged in school and out of the juvenile justice system by connecting them to community service and remedial services rather than marginalizing them with suspensions/expulsions and juvenile justice referrals. The evaluation was conducted with 24 middle schools and high schools, with 12 randomly selected to participate in SBTCs and 12 conducting traditional discipline practices of suspensions or expulsions. A total of 249 students participated in SBTCs rather than receiving traditional disciplinary actions. All successfully completed community/school sanctions. Longitudinal growth models indicated that SBTCs were significantly linked with positive changes in participants' school satisfaction and reductions in associations with delinquent peers at school. Pretest-posttest analyses (Paired Sample T-tests) also indicated significant decreases in student-reported violent behavior in SBTC schools; however, there was no significant change in this outcome in comparison schools. Short-term suspensions decreased more than twice as much in SBTC schools compared to non-SBTC schools. Overall, these findings indicate that SBTCs have the potential to have a positive impact on youth who violate school behavioral standards. It is recommended that future implementation models integrate SBTCs with other restorative justice practices to have a more comprehensive impact on school climate and student problem behaviors. 2 tables and 52 references
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