Background – San Bernardino High has implemented a site-based youth court this year, with disappointing application. We have not had very many cases due to poor understanding of the students who will do well in the model, following up on dispositions (what the students must do to clear their injury to the school), and calendaring times to hold youth court at a time accessible to all involved. We have been holding hearings for fights and are expanding to include attendance violations.

Strength-based premise – Students serve as jury members during hearings (and the respondent eventually joins the jury for future hearings). They do a great job of identifying the problem, and where students’ attitudes, choices, and actions should be. But they struggle with assigning dispositions that will assist the responding student in improving over the long term. The targets that we have developed in the IFT SBJ summit at table 6 along with the tools we were introduced to can serve as a guide for the jurors. Respondents with attendance issues are advertising to the school community that they are falling through the cracks. We seek to reconnect them to the campus and persuade them to become positive contributors to the school community.

Specifically, respondents could be recommended to work directly with their counselor (or pathway lead) to the strengths inventory with Thrively. The juror could then recommend that the student develop THEIR OWN 5-10 hour service project that contributes to the school facility, or to human beings at the school, that relies on their strengths. Other dispositions could include working on campus to further the SBJ values found in our Provocative Proposition. Students have 30 school days to complete their disposition. Our proposition states:

Every member of Utopia Unified is committed to preparing students to live self-determined, positive, free lives by empowering them with robust academic skills, impactful experiences, and risk-taking opportunities within a culture of safety, willingness, and positivity.

We value healthy relationships, collaboration, recognition, empathy, choice and adding value to others in our community.

To grow our team, students in the Law and Society pathway, as well as the teachers affiliated with the pathway will be trained (or even develop) on questions asking that elucidates the students’ deficits, reasons for their behavior, as well as strengths that may be used during the disposition. Additionally, we will train two staff-member judges who can be available during the week.

The structure is established for fights, and is in process for ditching. On Monday, and throughout the next month and summer recess, we will develop the full structure and communication strategy for shifting all dispositions to the SBJ approach, in line with our Provocative Proposition.

Intended outcomes are to connect students to the campus and the entirety of the resources offered, and to improve student willingness to take advantage of the services, clubs, sports, etc.

I am in charge and will have it ready to go on the first day back to school in August 2018.

We will network during scheduled professional development time and after school.

Parents are strongly encouraged to attend the youth court hearing with their student. The parents are also asked questions and given opportunities to describe for the jury members their perspective about what happened, and how to best use this opportunity for their student.


About the author: John Wingo
I teach and lead the Law and Society career pathway at San Bernardino High. I also am implementing a site-based youth court with the guidance of our school district (Mikki and Henry).