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Juvenile court sentences teen to conflict resolution, not jail

A California teenager may receive a reprieve from criminal charges in connection with a November fight at a high-school campus. The young woman, a transgender teen, has been ordered by the juvenile court to participate in conflict resolution for her role in the fight. That altercation led to an assault charge.

The teen's sister said that the 16-year-old defendant was involved in the physical confrontation in November, after she had reportedly been continually harassed by three other girls. Even though the defendant had reported the teasing - ostensibly related to her transgender status - the school's administration did not act. The next day, the fight broke out.

Transgender teens are particularly vulnerable to harassment at school, according to nationwide research. About nine in 10 transgender students have been harassed in the past year, and half of those harassed later tried to harm themselves.

Instead of the 'school-to-jail' pipeline taking effect in this instance - a phenomenon that has been lambasted by national politicians - the parties will participate in a resolution program administered by the juvenile law system. The assault charges have not been dropped yet, but the high school student and her family members hope that they will be dismissed after an upcoming hearing in May.

Legal experts say that all teens, especially transgender students and those of color, should be able to find 'peace and safety' outside of the juvenile law system. In this case, the defendant will be participating in the restorative justice program instead of having to serve time in custody. Teenagers like this young woman deserve a second chance; the teen clearly did not assault someone just for the fun of it. Teen defendants who are facing a similar situation in California may be able to pursue other alternative sentencing options instead of custody or supervised release. A qualified California attorney may be able to help such defendants learn more about restorative justice and its application to their cases.

Source: Contra Costa Times, "Judge orders East Bay transgender teen to participate in conflict resolution program" Theresa Harrington, Feb. 07, 2014

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