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There is growing interest in the role that school-based youth courts can play in dismantling zero-tolerance policies that feed the school-to-prison pipeline. Youth courts are a peer-led alternative to school discipline in which students serve as attorneys, judges, and jurors. While the number of youth courts is growing nationally, Pennsylvania is lagging behind other large states in adopting the model.
Through his Stoneleigh Fellowship, Gregg Volz championed the development and expansion of the youth court model as an alternative to punitive zero-tolerance policies in Philadelphia area schools. He established youth courts in five Chester-Upland District schools and one Philadelphia District school, and the school-based courts heard more than 300 cases. In addition, he played a primary role in drafting a state youth court bill, a Pennsylvania Bar Association Youth Court resolution, and a Philadelphia Bar Association youth court resolution. His research demonstrated youth courts can improve communication between the juvenile justice and education systems, and his efforts educated hundreds of local youth about the rule of law, restorative justice, and youth empowerment.
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