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HCHS students complete Teen Court program

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Thirty-nine Harrison county students who have completed Teen Court training were sworn in as officers of their county court Monday, Sept. 24.
District Court Judge Bill Kuster, who serves Harrison, Pendleton, Nicholas, and Robertson counties and oversees the local Teen Court program, performed the ceremony at the Harrison County Judicial Center.  
Teen-Court members performed two mock trials for the audience, and Judge David Melcher (retired) served as keynote speaker for the event.
Judge Kuster, along with Harrison County Attorney Bradley Vaughn, Matt Perdue of KY Department of Public Advocacy, and Court Designated Worker Kayla Robinson, continue to mentor and encourage participating Teen Court volunteers.  
HCHS teacher Joshua Powers serves as Teen Court coordinator.
Teen Court programs operate from September through May to coincide with the school calendar. Although a district judge presides over Teen Court, it is operated almost entirely by teenagers ranging in age from 13 to 17.
“Teen Court uses peer pressure in a positive way for nonviolent juvenile offenders,” said Billy Stover, state coordinator for Kentucky Teen Court. “We’ve found that peer pressure in a court of law has a profound impact on a juvenile offender and is very effective at deterring juveniles from committing other crimes.”
The Administrative Office of the Courts started Teen Court in 1992 as one of its many law-related education programs. Teen Court has since expanded to 26 programs operating in 32 counties across Kentucky. More than 15,000 students have participated in the program since its inception.
Teen Court programs are made up of student volunteers who have completed five, two-hour training sessions in courtroom roles such as prosecutor, defense attorney, court clerk, bailiff and juror. All student volunteers take an oath of confidentiality to protect the privacy of the defendants who appear before them.
After being found guilty in district court, the district judge has the option to refer defendants to Teen Court for sentencing.
Teen jurors review the facts of the case and hear testimony before recommending a punishment. Often the juvenile defendant will speak on his or her own behalf and apologize for the crime.
Teen Court programs have imposed stiff penalties of up to 80 hours of community service, but more common sentences include lesser amounts of community service, letters of apology, counseling sessions and Teen Court jury duty. Teen Court sentences are legally binding and defendants must complete their sentences within six months or face being sent back to district court.