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Teen Court issue sparks debate

WINDSOR – Teen Court may return to Bertie County.

It may not be an auspice of Bertie County Schools.

At the request of board member Gloria Lee, the Bertie County Board of Education added discussion of the program to its agenda Monday night.

Teen Court has been a hot-button issue for the district for more than a year. The program was suspended from Bertie County Schools more than two years ago, but has been discussed in recent months.

On Monday, Lee said she would like the board to have a discussion about the program and whether or not it should be reinstated.

When the board reached the item on the agenda, Chairman Rickey Freeman recognized Lee to begin the discussion.

“I feel like it’s important enough to the children to at least discuss bringing it back,” Lee said. “Teen Court was a good program, not only for those who had infractions, but for those who were able to use it to learn about the judicial system.”

Lee said she would like to see the program brought back.

Board member Emma Johnson agreed that it would be appropriate to discuss the program.

Fellow board member Melinda Eure said she was interested in the idea, but wanted to see a more thorough discussion possibly followed by the appointment of a committee to seek funding and ways to oversee the program.

Vice Chairman Alton Parker asked if Board Attorney Carolyn Waller had researched the Teen Court program and if she could report her findings to the board.

Waller said she had made some telephone calls about Teen Court, but was not in a position to make a full report to the board.

She said she had talked with leaders of the Juvenile Justice Planning Committee and their response had been that they knew of no county school system that supported or operated a teen court.

Waller said most of the Teen Court programs were operated by the judicial district or the county, according to the preliminary information she had gathered.

The Juvenile Crime Prevention Council (JCPC) could be an avenue to look at as far as getting the program going again, Waller reported. She said it was unknown at the present time if the JCPC was in operation in Bertie County.

Parker said he would like to see Waller do more investigation and report back to the board.

“If other programs are not operated by the school system, I have no problem with that,” Freeman said. “Maybe we could turn it over to the JCPC.”

Lee replied, “What I’m hearing you say is that you don’t want it run through the county board of education.”

Freeman said he was saying if the program was normally operated through other agencies, it would be a good idea to follow that lead and turn it over to an agency that could find funding and handle the program.

“We’re in the education business, not the judicial business,” he said.