Teen court program tackles bullying, hate crimes

A new offshoot of Los Angeles’ teen court program focuses on hate and bullying — and tolerance and reform. Defendants face juries of their peers: fellow teenagers.

Judge David S. Wesley talks to teenage jurors.Judge David S. Wesley talks to some of the 15 teenagers who served as jurors in a hate crime case Friday in downtown Los Angeles. From left, Martha DeLaTorre, Shyann Hale, Alexandria Hatfield and Ticia Francisco. (Al Seib, Los Angeles Times / July 20, 2012)
By Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles TimesJuly 22, 2012, 11:14 p.m.

One by one, the three teenage girls took the stand and answered hard questions about their awful actions one night in April.

Why would you deface your Jewish classmate’s home with swastikas and the word “Jew”?

When you defecated on her doorstep, what could you possibly have been thinking?

But it was not a prosecutor posing the questions in the hearing in downtown Los Angeles last week, which involved criminal charges of vandalism, vandalism as a hate crime and terrorism by symbol. The questions were asked by students taking part in one of the first cases focused on bullying, bias and hate crimes heard under an offshoot of a long-running youth court program.

In the teen courts that have operated for two decades in Los Angeles, trained high school students question their peers, determine guilt and recommend sentences. One of the founders, L.A. County Superior Court Assistant Presiding Judge David S. Wesley, said that he believed a special program was necessary for the growing problem of bullying and bias among students and that peer review would have a powerful influence on the accused perpetrators.

Read more.  Article provided by Cruz Rochez


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