News

  • Thursday, January 31, 2019 4:14 PM | Anonymous
    Organization plans to use a matching grant to establish on-campus operations.

    by: Samantha Chaney Staff Writer LINK TO FULL ARTICLE

    Being scrutinized when you’re in trouble is never easy, no matter how old you are. And, when you’re walking into court as a teenager, the experience can be terrifying.

    But Teen Court of Sarasota presents an alternative.

    Instead of going to a regular court, at-risk teenagers who have committed a crime have a chance to go to Teen Court, a court run by their peers. 

    In Teen Court, the defendants explain their crime to a jury of their peers, and then receive a “sentence,” usually community service hours geared toward something in which they’re interested. The biggest difference is the teens can avoid having a criminal record by completing the program.

    Teen Court Executive Director Heather Todd.

    “Students are referred to Teen Court in lieu of a charge and in lieu of a suspension or expulsion,” Teen Court Executive Director Heather Todd said. “So, instead of a criminal offense, they’re sent to Teen Court for meaningful consequences and positive redirection, as opposed to, ‘Hey, we’re going to kick you out of school for three or five days.’ It allows the young person to stay in their school.”

    And now, with a matching grant of $25,000 awarded to the organization by the Community Foundation of Sarasota, students can receive the attention they need without leaving campus.

    Lashelle Williams, a client coordinator and case manager for Teen Court, used to have to wait for the young clients to come to her office in downtown Sarasota to help them. To get there, some students would miss class or face difficulty securing reliable transportation.

    But the new grant, matched by the Sarasota County School Board, provides the Teen Court with the funding for case managers to be stationed at local high schools throughout the week so they can go to the students, not the other way around.

    “For me, it’s made my life a lot easier with being at the schools and just reaching more kids in general. Building more relationships with the schools, so that they become more aware of what we are, what we do and the services we provide for the young people,” Williams said. “This way, they utilize us a lot more to provide for [students].”

    Thanks to the grant, Teen Court is now able to serve the students of Booker, Venice, Riverview, North Port and Sarasota high schools and Triad on their own campuses.

    One client, whose identity was withheld for publication, said Teen Court can help students who might not otherwise know of their options. 

    “Coming in, I didn’t really know what to expect,” the client

    Teen Court is run by students so that defendants may be positively redirected by their peers. Photo courtesy of the Teen Court of Sarasota.

    said. “But through my experiences and the experiences of people I’ve met, I feel that — through volunteer and other services — kids, in general, can just really benefit.”

    Additionally, the grant helps the Teen Court guarantee their services, regardless of a student’s financial background.

    “The grant did help us to be able to provide more services for the kids because we’re a nonprofit and it helps us to cover fees of a school referral,” Williams said. “If a family can’t afford it, we’ll pick that up. We’ll never turn a family away because of prices or because of fees.”

    Todd said Teen Court also offers counseling services, drug prevention, anti-bullying, and anger-management classes to certain students who “demonstrate extra need.”

    “The services [students] will receive is saving lives. They are stopping this behavior and making good choices,” Todd affirmed. “This partnership with the Community Foundation and the Sarasota County School Board is saving lives.”


  • Monday, January 21, 2019 11:13 AM | Anonymous

    Teen Court of Sarasota has announced a collaboration with the Community Foundation of Sarasota County, in the form of a $25,000 grant to support services at Sarasota County Public Schools. With this collaboration, Teen Court of Sarasota has placed Case Managers at each local high school, one day per week, to address topics like sexting, bullying, peer pressure and more. The organization’s programs address the whole family and also include mental health counseling, parent/child risky behavior classes and substance abuse education. Those high schools served include, Booker High School, Venice High School, Riverview High School, North Port High School, Sarasota High School and Triad.

    SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION - MONDAY JAN 21, 2019

    Link to full article

  • Sunday, October 28, 2018 8:33 AM | Anonymous

    Teen Court is proud to join forces with North Port D-Fy, an initiative for local youth who share a commitment to making positive choices and living healthy, drug-free lives.

    https://www.northportdfy.com/


  • Tuesday, September 04, 2018 7:36 AM | Anonymous

    -Venice, Fla. (August 30, 2018) - It is with pride that Teen Court of Sarasota, Inc. receives a $2,500 donation from the Suncoast Professional Firefighters & Paramedics IAFF Local 2546.

    The newest relationship to develop at Teen Court is with the Suncoast Professional Firefights & Paramedics IAFF Local 2546. Heather Todd and Lori Moran of Teen Court jointly acknowledged this new relationship as another valuable collaboration of our community caring about the needs of our most vulnerable youth and their families.

    We are truly grateful for the Suncoast Professional Firefighters & Paramedics IAFF Local 2546 investment in us. We will continue to offer our families in Sarasota the accessibility of our parent/child classes, mental health counseling and thoughtful support. Our relationships with the young people we serve and their families result in positive outcomes that benefit our whole community.

    Teen Court of Sarasota, Inc. is an alternative to Juvenile Court, allowing a young person a second chance of having a bright future. Delinquent youth who come through Teen Court participate in a court program run by their peers; there are teen prosecuting and defending attorneys, teen clerks and bailiffs, and teen jurors who determine appropriate sentencing of community service hours and jury duties, all under the supervision of a volunteer adult judge. Student volunteers who participate in our Teen Court program receive a law-related education along with community service hours for their time. In complement to the Teen Court program, the organization also offers counseling services, drug prevention, anti-bullying, and anger management classes to those youth who demonstrate extra need.

  • Monday, August 27, 2018 6:37 AM | Anonymous
    Teen Court announces a new partnership with the United Way of South Sarasota County to expand our services for south county residents.



  • Wednesday, January 24, 2018 12:01 AM | Anonymous

    Teen court, a pretrial intervention program designed to keep youths ages 10 to 17 out of the criminal justice system while still holding them accountable for their actions through a jury of their peers, will open in North Port as soon as March.

    After a presentation by teen volunteers and adults who supervise the program, the North Port City Commission on Tuesday night unanimously agreed to let teen court case managers and counselors use meeting and office space in City Hall and host monthly teen court trials in commission chambers.

    “I’ve seen people my age come through and I’ve talked to them and helped them,” said Victoria Pelfry, a teen court attorney who lives in North Port and attends Lemon Bay High School. “Generally they tell me how thankful they are for teen court and how much their life would be different if teen court hadn’t stepped in to help them.”

    Pelfry said many youths she keeps in contact with tell her they would come back and volunteer but don’t have the transportation to get to the main courthouse in downtown Sarasota or the Robert L. Anderson Administration Center in Venice, where sessions are held.

    She was one of four volunteers who implored the commission to find space for North Port youths in need to access teen court’s services in their backyard.

    Since July 2016, the West Villages Improvement District has made space for case manager Shaun Slapp to meet youths in an office, but that, too, is a stretch for some.

    Mary Dougherty, board president of Teen Court of Sarasota Inc., and a North Port resident since 1979, started the presentation by noting that the largest city with the youngest demographic in Sarasota County needed a local space for youths.

    “It’s important that they take place in an official government setting, and that the young people learn to show the respect in that setting for the process,” she later added.

    Heather Todd is executive director for the program, which opened in 1988 in north Sarasota County and expanded to South County in 1992.

    Teen court, which drug tests each client, also offers counseling and substance abuse classes as well as a program for “Counseling, Opportunity Ownership, Problem-Solving,” or COOP for short.

    More about the program can be found at sarasotateencourt.org.

    Over the past four years the program has helped a declining number of North Port youth — 96 in 2014, followed by 71 in 2015, 61 in 2016, and 41 last year. Todd attributed that to the inaccessibility of the South County location.

    “What that says to me is we need the services in the North Port families’ backyard,” Todd told the commission.

    Overall, the program helped about 400 youths in 2017, with 27 percent of the clients coming from Osprey south to Englewood and Port Charlotte.

    Historically, only 5 percent of the youths who go through teen court become repeat offender.

    In addition to serving those youths, teen court law-related programs reached another 4,000 students countywide, Todd said.

    Records from the proceedings are outside of the juvenile justice system, so — in theory — no formal records may haunt the participants in the future.

    Teen court receives cases from local law enforcement for civil citation as well as the state Department of Juvenile Justice, the State Attorney, local schools and parents.

    Juveniles plead their case and pledge to make amends before a student-run court of their peers.

    “The consequences given to them by peers include community service hours, jury duty sessions, apology letters, essays and reports,” Todd said.

    North Port High School student Nathan Clemens, one of the teen court attorneys, later added that expansion of the program to North Port “will allow their cases to be heard by a true jury of their peers, by actual North Port residents.”

    Some former clients give back by becoming teen court volunteers, who are eligible for the teen court scholarship program, which awarded more than $10,000 to graduating seniors last year.

    Commissioners needed little prodding to endorse the program.

    Mayor Vanessa Carusone has worked with the program in the past, as has former City Commissioner Joan Morgan, who spoke in favor of teen court during public comment.

    “This is not a show. This is something that’s real and important and counseling is important and counseling is part of it,” Morgan said.

    Todd said Wednesday that she’s hoping to hold court once a month in North Port, while counseling and intake sessions will start at North Port City Hall as soon as logistics are worked out and space is made available.

    Carusone noted that those intake sessions can be almost as valuable as the court sessions, because that’s where counselors can find out if a youth is suicidal, or abused at home, or homeless and living in the woods and they can get help without a permanent record that could impact their future.

    “That’s what the city of North Port is about,” she added. “Providing a future for our children.”

    By Earle Kimel - Herald Tribune Staff Writer

    Click here for a copy of the article

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