Students get eye-opening lesson in Street Law class

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A number of students at Glenn Hills High School say they all know someone who has been in jail, but through a program being tested at the school, they are less likely to end up there themselves.

Street Law, a class organized by Assistant District Attorney Inga Hicks, has been exposing students to area legal professionals in hopes that they learn about the law in the classroom rather than in the courtroom.

About 35 students found themselves sitting in front of a judge Thursday.

Juvenile Court Judge Ben Allen, with others from the judicial system, spoke about the importance of making good decisions and the consequences if you don't.

Many students said they didn't realize that just hanging out with the wrong people can land a person behind bars for decades.

The "I ain't doing nothing" line doesn't work, Judge Allen said. If you're in a friend's car and marijuana is in the glove compartment, you both get arrested.

"Be careful of who you associate with," he said. "The law is unforgiving."

Some students, however, said it's hard to give up a longtime friend.

Jerel Stephenson, 18, said he would give more thought to his actions now.

Especially "scary," he said, were the consequences of being found guilty of sodomy, which many students didn't realize includes oral sex.

The students learned what comes with bad choices.

Elliott Bing, a case expediter for the Department of Juvenile Justice, told of two 15-year-olds who on Wednesday were taken from the Augusta Regional Youth Detention Center and brought to prison. They were sentenced to 20-year terms in connection with an armed robbery at Zaxby's.

"They are going to spend as long in prison as they have been alive," Mr. Bing told the students.

About half the teens at the detention center for armed robbery are there because they were with the wrong people, Mr. Bing said.

Teens are also locked up for what might be considered less serious offenses, said Rodney Brown, a Columbia County juvenile court intake officer. For instance, a pat on a classmate's behind is sexual battery, and no one younger than 16 can give consent to have sex, he said.

"The little things will get you into trouble," student Ebony Usry said.

Ms. Hicks is working to expand Street Law to other Richmond County schools.

"They often hear this mantra that knowledge is power," said William Dunbar, who teaches the class. "This is the stuff that isn't taught to them, which is why they learn it the wrong way."

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.

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FedupwithAUG
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FedupwithAUG 02/03/08 - 02:44 am
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They should bring them to the

They should bring them to the jail and do a "Scared Straight" type program. It would make more of an impact.

christian134
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christian134 02/03/08 - 08:56 am
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This is an excellent program.

This is an excellent program. Along with this program should be one that encourages the child to understand one must work for what one wants in life instead of living off the system or stealing from someone who does work.

Waymore
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Waymore 02/03/08 - 10:12 am
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Now, if we could get the

Now, if we could get the parents more involved, we may get back on the right path.

Craig Spinks
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Craig Spinks 02/03/08 - 10:45 am
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Parents and school officials

Parents and school officials who do not enforce firm, consistent limits and promote respect for authority among their charges set the stage for kids' later trouble with the law. Law enforcement officers such as Sgt. Rountree and Officer Eastman, judicial officials such as Judge Allen and Judge Sams, as well as principals like Dr. Frazier cannot compensate for the failures of many parents, teachers and principals to teach children that rules, not impulses, must guide juvenile behavior.

BarstoolDreamer
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BarstoolDreamer 02/03/08 - 11:19 am
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Armed robbery is bad? who

Armed robbery is bad? who knew!?!?

workingmom
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workingmom 02/03/08 - 02:11 pm
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Schools need to inflict

Schools need to inflict strict consequences for students who are habitually referred to the administration for disruptions and breaking school policy. Students even as young as elementary school are being allowed to bully students and disrupt classrooms over and over without suffering consequences because they are young or "special needs". At an early age, the parents should be held partially responsible for making sure their children do not get in trouble time and time again. In the upper grades, students should only be given a few times to get their act together or they face suspension or expulsion. Alternative school is an option, but for some kids, tougher consequences are necessary.

crackerjack
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crackerjack 02/03/08 - 02:52 pm
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The parents of these kids

The parents of these kids should be involved too. So they are aware, in certain circumstances, their liability, if they're not already locked up, that is.

havesomecompassion
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havesomecompassion 02/03/08 - 10:30 pm
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finally, the judicial system

finally, the judicial system cares

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