For additional information, contact Northwest Youth Services at
(360) 734-9862, and read about Teen Court on their web page at
Teen Court was conceived as a result of discussions between the
Superior Court Commissioner assigned to juvenile offender matters and
Northwest Youth Services about new methods of providing community
service, ways to give offending juveniles a chance to give back to
their community, to make them aware of the consequences of offending,
and to address shortcomings in traditional diversion cases.
The result of these discussions is the Whatcom County Teen Court.
Begun in 1998, this program offers a more meaningful experience for
youthful offenders charged with minor misdemeanors as well as
providing non-offender youth a chance to participate in a community
service project directly affecting their peers. The program goals
include: teaching the application of community standards to offenses
against the community; providing the offender with a chance to give
something back to the community; a better understanding of the effects
of the offense; creating a new avenue of community service for
offenders; shortening the time needed to resolve charges; and
reinforcing the sense of responsibility that each individual should
feel toward their the community.
- Teen Court generally hears cases involving youth who are facing a
second, discretionary diversion or who failed a traditional diversion
contract. The offenses involved are misdemeanors, and do not include
offenses involving weapons, domestic violence or gang activity. The
offender admits to the offense, as in traditional diversion, and then
goes before a jury of high school students charged with determining
the penalties to be assessed. The jury is made up of a mix of
non-offender volunteers and those who previously had their own charges
resolved in teen court. High school students serve as advocates,
presenting the case to the jury on behalf of the state and the
accused. Other students may serve as bailiffs, clerks, and in other
capacities as needed. Volunteer attorneys from the community act as
judges and as mentors to the advocates. Teachers from the schools act
as advisors to the youth teams.
- Teen Court is usually held on the second Wednesday of the month but may be held on the first Wednesday in April and June, depending on school calendars. Please confirm the dates with Cathy Beaty at Northwest Youth Services. An advisory board made up of students from each participating high school,
community members, a representative from law enforcement and representatives
from the Juvenile Court and Superior Court bench oversees the program
and makes policy for the Teen Court.
- The Whatcom County Teen Court has received the Liberty Bell Award from
the Whatcom County Bar Association and the Ken Gass Founders Award
from the Whatcom County Commission on Children and Youth. Student
participants have presented mock trials and represented the program at
the District 5050 Rotary Conference, the Washington State Conference
on Youth Courts, and the Bellingham Bay Rotary Club.