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Keeping Communities Safe

Illinois Youth Court Association:
Chicago Public Schools Peer Jury Initiative


The Peer Jury program was initially developed by Alternatives, Inc., a non-profit youth and family service agency in Chicago, Illinois. The charter program was first implemented at Nicholas Senn High School in 1995. The students sought to identify a model that provided alternatives to the punitive measures set out in the school discipline code. Students who were suspended or expelled often had poor attendance, were generally unable to complete school assignments, and often further isolated from the school community and culture.

Program Model

The basic Peer Jury is a student-driven program in collaboration with the school’s discipline office. Students, acting as peer jurors, are trained to analyze the facts of a referred student’s case, ask questions, and decide upon appropriate consequences to school disciplinary issues. Students are connected with community resources to address root causes of their behavior and identify positive solutions. By allowing students to take leadership roles in every level of the process, including the development, planning and implementation of the program, the juries redefine the role of youth in addressing student misconduct.

Chicago Public Schools Citywide Implementation

The positive impact experienced by Senn High School has spurred the Chicago Public Schools system to replicate the program in over twenty-five schools citywide. Moreover, the Chicago Public Schools Discipline Code has been rewritten to include Peer Jury as a referral option for teachers. In 2001, a Citywide Peer Jury Advisory Committee was formed to facilitate the further expansion of the peer jury program. This Advisory Committee includes representatives from, among other organizations, Chicago Public Schools, Northwestern University School of Law, The Office of the Attorney General, Chicago Department of Human Services, the Juvenile and Child Protection Resource Section of the Circuit Court of Cook County, Community Panels for Youth, Southwest Youth Collaborative, Alternatives, Inc., and the Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago.

• The Peer Jury program has received award recognition from the Chicago Council of Urban Affairs (2001 Neighborhood Award), Youth Court Association (2002 Youth Court Award) and the BP Leader Award( 2002).

• The Peer Jury program has been nominated for the 2003 James Brown IV Award of Excellence for Outstanding Community Service.

• Schools that have implemented the Peer Jury program have reported a decrease in suspensions and in-school fights.

• Schools that have implemented the Peer Jury Program have reported an increase in attendance

For more information:
Please contact Christine Agaiby
Alternatives, Inc.
4730 N. Sheridan Rd.
Chicago, IL 60640
773.506.7474 ext. 217


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