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Montgomery County Teen Court Going Strong For 15 Years

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A group of Montgomery County high school students are exercising their civic duty in Teen Court by serving on real cases. It's a typical day in the court, and about 100 students serving as jurors on cases involving juvenile first-time offenders at Circuit Court in Rockville.

"We call up cases, we read out swearing people in and the decisions and basically ensure that the court process runs smoothly," says 11th-grader Susan McGratten, who serves as a court clerk. 

One of the few adults in the room is Georgine DeBord of the State's Attorney's Office. She runs the Teen Court program.

"The kinds of cases that we take? Shoplifting, destruction of property, possession of marijuana, possession of knives," she says. 

Inside one courtroom, a remorseful 15-year-old boy tells a jury of his peers he is very sorry for stealing a $3 box of candy, and for having marijuana in his possession.

Angie Peterson, a 10th-grader, served as a juror in the trial. "We kind of all agreed in the jury room that he was really honest," she says. They sentenced the young man to community service and ordered him to write an apology letter to his mom, who was in the back of the courtroom crying.

Some of the students at Teen Court have actually been on both sides of the bench. 17-year-old Chris Leischenring, who started as a juror and now is working as a clerk and a bailiff, was arrested last year for stealing his parents' credit card. His dad sent him to teen court.  

"I was actually really upset at my dad for doing that," Leischenring says. "I hated him, I just thought he was a horrible father, but then I started to think that all he wanted to do was teach me a lesson and get me to change before I went and did something worse." 

In the past 15 years 4,000 teens on both sides of the law have gone through the program.

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