Steering Kids in Right Direction

A new joint report from the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Education shows that over the last 10 years the number of crimes committed by students at schools has dropped by at least half.

Much of this is credited to more efforts to curb bullying, the hiring of more security guards and the installation of metal detectors at many schools, all in the wake of a rash of school shootings.

Although numbers are down for crimes committed during school hours, they are pretty much the same or in some cases a little higher than they were ten years ago when it comes to crimes committed by students outside the classroom.

Sumter County Youth Court Judge Tammy Montgomery said she thinks she knows why.

"I think the settings outside the school system still lend us to have something for the children outside of the school," said Montgomery.

That's why Judge Montgomery, along with other members of the Sumter County District Court and the Board of Education, sponsored a mock trial for students Monday.

"If there's not intervention programs like the mock trial of mentors or parent and fatherhood programs to show them there's something else to do with their brain power, then we see these people end up coming back into the criminal justice system," said Montgomery.

"I've been in law enforcement about 22 years and I've watched some of them from a kid up end up in the county jail," said Sheriff Johnny Hatter. "Sometimes they start from six up, from six years old on up."

"We call these children 'CHINS', and that's 'children in need of supervision.' Just think about it," said Montgomery. "If you're going to break into somebody's house, you've got to come up with a plan. You use brain power to do that. You're using all the stimuli that we can use in our school system to make a child an 'A' student and a good citizen, but we've got to steer them in that direction."

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