Source: (-0001) Univ. of Pennsylvania Journal of Law and Social Change .Vol 15 200-231
The motto of the Chester Youth Court is “Students Helping Students Make Better
Decisions.” For five years, lawyers, working with a variety of community partners, have been
helping Chester students achieve this objective and in the process, have given them a voice to
advance not just disciplinary justice, but also educational and economic justice. In this pursuit,
lawyers have successfully achieved the highest aspirations of our profession and provided youth
with the tools to successfully protect and defend themselves. Student empowerment is the
fundamental touchstone of youth courts.
Currently, eleven million youth between the ages of sixteen and twenty-four are neither
in school nor employed.2 For these “disconnected youth,” America is hardly a “Land of
Opportunity”; the “American Dream” is no more than a distant memory from their father’s
generation.3 America’s greatest strength has always been our democratic values and institutions.
Society’s current inability, or unwillingness, to inculcate these values in our nation’s youth
threatens our democracy. Public schools were created to inculcate these values of citizenship.
That promise has been forgotten at many schools. Quality youth courts can instill those values.
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