....After working with lawyers, judges and social workers for eight weeks, the Washington Junior High students gathered Dec. 13 in Court Room 2005 with Cook County Circuit Judge Thomas Hogan to discover for themselves the benefits and downfalls of using the justice system to address violence.

After students played out the mock altercation, they learned about and had to respond to three methods of intervention: Peace Circle, Peer Jury and Traditional.

With the Peace Circle solution, the offender and victim met face to face, communicating about what happened, why it happened and what could have been done differently. The offender got a perspective of whom and what his or her decisions affected.

In the Peer Jury segment, the offender admitted guilt with no legal ramifications but still had to take accountability for his or her actions. Students in the peer jury asked questions to learn what triggered the violence and why it occurred, then assigned consequences — with the help of an adult moderator — such as anger management classes, 20 hours of community service and having the offender write and present an essay on the harmful effects of bullying.

During the traditional court setting, the students learned that the consequences of violence no longer were in the hands of a school system but a serious courtroom where those deciding on the offender’s future wouldn’t know the offender on a personal level.

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