Buffalo / Pepin County Teen Court welcomed twenty new panelists at their training on April 6. These new panelists join about twenty other high school students already serving as peer judges. Teen Court hears about 30 cases a year across the two counties with referrals from the juvenile court, law enforcement, human services and local schools.
An integral part of their training was meeting with Buffalo / Pepin County Judge Duvall in the courtroom. New panelists sat in the jury box and heard a mock, or fake, sentencing hearing involving an adult offender. The District Attorney and Public Defender also played roles helping students consider the multiple factors in sentencing a case. Judge Duvall also spoke with panelists about why individuals commit crimes and how to best make a decision in a case.
Following their time in the courtroom, current panelists graduating in May coached new judges in a mock teen court case. They shared their perspectives, challenges and rewards serving Buffalo / Pepin County Teen Court for the last three years. Seniors who assisted in teaching and coaching were Lacie Johnson, Kayla Kaczorowski, Emily Bork, Maya Smith and Rachel Seifert.
The new teen court panelists are: Wyatt Hamilton, Max Benish, Hailey Johnson, Briana Smolek, Amara Livingston, Jordan Anderson, Abigail Weber, Aubrie Brunner, Alisha Rinholen, Breleigh Bauer, Ian Schneider, Morgan Guenther, Jaden Newman, Marissa Pax, Amber Kleinschmidt, Karlie Wener, Sophie Walk, Morgan Moline, Addison Olson and Bryce Quinton.
The training that was coordinated by Annie Lisowski and Marie Ritscher, both University of Wisconsin-Extension Educators and Teen Court Co-Coordinators, is centered on educating high school students on utilizing restorative justice with their peers. Restorative justice is an approach that encourages an offender to change behavior; a method that has illustrated as most effective, especially for young people. Teen Court panelists also help their peer offenders to repair their relationship with the victim, restore their image in the community and build skills that will boast their future chance at success.
To learn more about Buffalo/Pepin County Teen Court visit https://buffalo.uwex.edu/teencourt