Lansing Teen Court, a community-based and highly collaborative program of Child & Family Services, announced today that it has awarded Don LeDuc, president and dean of the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, with the organization's first-ever Community Recognition Award.
"To say the least, we are grateful for Don's civic-minded nature, his commitment to education and his support of creative and community-based methods of resolving juvenile justice and community challenges through collaboration," said Mike Botke, director of Teen Court.
The basis for the Community Recognition Award includes making a significant contribution to the community, whether monetary or in deed. LeDuc is the first to receive the award and was selected to honor his commitment, not only to Teen Court, but to community collaboration as well.
"Cooley is honored to be involved with the Teen Court program," said LeDuc. "Our staff, professors and students have embraced this program, as it gives a second chance to young people and provides an invaluable service to the Lansing community."
Teen Court is a juvenile justice diversion program for juveniles who are first-time, nonviolent offenders. Juveniles who participate in Teen Court face a jury of their peers who are local high school students. During a Teen Court hearing, the youth admits guilt, accepts responsibility for the harm caused and explains his/her situation to the jurors, who can then ask questions about the case under the supervision of trained Teen Court staff. After the hearing, jurors deliberate and determine appropriate sanctions based on restorative justice principles, from doing community service or an apology letter to drug testing and anger management classes. Unlike traditional sentencing, juveniles who successfully complete the Teen Court program will have no formal record.
Cooley Law School has been one of Teen Court's key program partners since the program’s founding in April 2001. Cooley students, faculty and staff serve as youth advocates, adult jury monitors and assist with Street Law workshops, which provide practical information about the law and the legal system and encourage participants to become effective, law-abiding citizens by promoting civic responsibility and community participation. Cooley Law School also provides in-kind donations of courtroom facilities, offices for business operations and classroom space for Street Law workshops.
Cooley's contributions have helped Teen Court serve nearly 5,500 teenagers since 2001, and more than 90 percent of the 1,300 offenders who completed the program did not commit any other crimes.
Teen Court is currently being piloted at Cooley Law School's Grand Rapids Campus, in association with the Kent County Family Court, the Kent County Prosecutor’s Office, and the juvenile probation system.