DOWNEY – Downey Unified’s Teen Court program was honored with a Golden Bell Award last Saturday, a leading educational honor in California sponsored by the California School Boards Association (CSBA).
Celebrating its 38th year, the Golden Bell Award promotes excellence in education and school board governance by recognizing outstanding programs, and superiority practices in school districts throughout California.
The California School Boards Association is the non-profit education association representing the elected officials who govern public school districts. With a membership of nearly 1,000 educational agencies statewide, CSBA brings together school district governing boards to advocate for effective policies that advance the education and well-being of the state’s more than 6 million school-age children.
The Golden Bell Award program honors exemplary organizations in 19 major categories that highlight the best practices to support effective governance, teaching and student learning. Educational experts from school districts and county offices of education comprise the 26-member judging panel that review all written award entries. On-site visitations are also utilized to validate and assess the nominated programs to determine the winners.
Downey Unified’s Teen Court program, the only program chosen for this award out of five similar applicants, was selected for its ability to engage students in the democratic process, collaboration with civic organizations and opportunities it provides students in hand-on civic engagement.
Now in its fourth year of implementation, this award-winning program is comprised of approximately 75 students from Downey, Columbus and Warren high schools.
Teen Court is a juvenile diversion and prevention program that links students, schools, teachers, parents, juvenile offenders, local police, volunteer attorneys, the Los Angeles County Probation Department and the Los Angeles Superior Court in a collaborative effort to reduce recidivism (reoffending) and encourage juvenile offenders to accept responsibility for their actions.
“Downey Unified and the LA Superior Court have embraced a restorative justice model where early intervention becomes the central focus,” described Marian Reynolds, Downey Unified’s administrator of Student Services who leads this program. “This model allows select juvenile offenders to be questioned, judged and sentenced by a jury of their peers, teaching valuable lessons about how courts operate and what it’s like to be part of the justice system.”