Ask the Judge: 'Students in Court"
Judge Steve Walker (photo)
Each Thursday morning one of the most depressing dockets I deal with is the students charged with disorderly conduct. Different schools charge their students with an array of offenses. Among them is fighting in class, disruption of class, destroying or defacing property, inappropriate behavior of all kinds, and minors in possession of drug paraphernalia, alcohol or cigarettes to name a few.
From elementary to middle school to high school, students are sent to a Justice of the Peace for a hearing to determine the seriousness of the alleged offense.
The key word here is “alleged.” In 97 percent of the cases before me the offenses are legitimate complaints and when the offense is read to the student, normally the alleged violator admits to his/her indiscretions as stated.
On occasion a student offers an alternative version of the incident than the citation alleges. In a few but rare cases the student is able to offer evidence that is more plausible than the original situation cited.
On the theory that everyone is innocent until proven guilty, both sides are heard and a decision is rendered.
In some cases, bullying is involved and the defendant is obviously defending themselves. I hear many cases where the student is jumped by more than one fellow student and when they push back in defense, they are charged with engaging in fighting along with the other students.
Unfortunately a number of special needs students are also sent to Justice of the Peace Court. As a retired Special Ed. Teacher, I have to ask many more questions of the defendant or parent or advocate determining if the offense relates to his/her disability. Many times in court that changes the dynamics of the solutions.
Once I have heard both versions if there are more than one, the punishment is then assessed. Like truancy, the student usually receives probation, some community service, possible counseling to include anger management, goal setting, and decision making.
As the Teacher Judge, I also mandate the student going to the public library and obtaining a library card. It costs nothing. He/She also must write a two page book report and when they return to the court, read the book report to me.
If the student is charged with possession of drug paraphernalia, alcohol or drugs, they are state mandated to take an 8-hour Tecada class. If the student does not follow any of the mandates ordered he/she can be brought back to court and show/caused.
If that is the case and if they have not celebrated their 17th birthday they can be ordered to juvenile detention and assigned a probation officer and the Justice Court loses jurisdiction.
Lastly as always, be sure to show up to court on time. It is in everyone’s best interest.
Justice of the Peace, Pct. 2 Steve Walker is a Vietnam Veteran and a former Journalist.
Editor's Note: This column is in Sunday's March 20th edition.