By Juliet Aguilera
Suspension has been one of the harsh consequences for any student who has misbehaved or broken a school rule, but at Novato High, suspension isn’t always viewed as the best option for discipline.
Peer Court, which takes place every Monday and Wednesday in room 2102 at lunch, is used as a substitute for suspension, allowing other students to decide the disciplinary options for students who have violated a school rule.
Suzan Anderson is the coordinator of Peer Court and is in charge of bringing Little Caesar's Pizza to the students who wish to participate.
“Peer Court is an alternative to suspension and it is a student-run court,’’ Anderson said. “It helps students deal with school violations and keeps them from being suspended.”
Jennifer Ortiz, writer for the New York State Bar Association Journal, sees peer court somewhat differently.
“Despite their popularity, there are many unanswered questions about the effectiveness of teen courts,” Ortiz writes. “The overall impression one gets from the evaluation literature is positive, but researchers have yet to identify exactly why teen courts work.”
Anderson believes Peer Court has been a success overall in Novato High.
“The whole idea of restorative justice is to repair all harm that was done by the rule that was broken, and the violation that was done,” Anderson said. “The whole restorative plan, is that the students determine what the option for discipline should be: a number of jury duties where the student comes back and sees what is like to be on the other side. The students are committed into doing a project that might be a letter to victim or doing community service.”
James Sher, a senior that participates in Peer Court, thinks Peer Court is a good alternative to suspension, but thinks there are some loopholes in the system.
“I think it’s a very nice concept, having students decide the consequences,” said Sher. “I do think it’s very flawed and some cases shouldn’t be here. They are very bogus.”
Gisel Camacho, a junior that has been a part of Peer Court since her freshman year, is of the opinion that Peer Court is a great opportunity for students.
“I think it's a great program for students because it's not only an alternative to suspension, but the students can still be able to attend school and at the same time make up for the wrong they have caused,” Camacho said. “On the other hand, if students would have gotten suspended, then they could not have attended school and not really have learned or reflected much from their experience.”