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Youth Courts and their Educational Value: An Examination of Youth Courts in Chester, Pennsylvania

In the 2011-12 school year, the Stoneleigh Foundation commissioned Research for Action (RFA) to conduct a study of Chester Upland School District’s (CUSD) youth courts. The purpose of the youth court model is to allow students who commit minor offenses to appear before their peers and receive sentences from other youth, and for these peers to design sentences with the goal of repairing the harm done to individual victims and the broader community. RFA’s study reveals that the long-term academic performance (including graduation rate) of youth court volunteers, students who serve on the courts, and respondents (students who have committed low-level offenses), was significantly stronger than that of their non-participating peers. Participation also positively influenced the students’ academic mindset and social skills, as well as reducing rates of recidivism among the respondents.