There are important distinctions between a juvenile court hearing and a school board hearing (also referred to as a tribunal). There are also situations where the two proceedings may overlap. Let's take a look at the similarities and differences between juvenile court and school board hearings.
The main difference is that juvenile court hearings are criminal proceedings, while school board hearings are administrative. Cases in juvenile court involve violations of Georgia’s juvenile code, the set of laws that relate to criminal acts committed by minors. While the goal of the juvenile code is to rehabilitate young offenders, serious offenses can result in detention in a youth detention facility. By contrast, school board hearings involve violations of a school’s code of conduct. A finding of a violation may result in disciplinary action such as expulsion or suspension from school or other similar discipline.
Despite these differences, the two proceedings can overlap if a student’s violation of a school code is also a criminal offense. For example, possession of marijuana on school grounds violates a school’s code of conduct and is also a criminal offense. In these cases, a student may be subject to both a school board hearing and a delinquency charge in juvenile court. For very serious offenses, such as violent acts, school administrators may even be required to report the student’s misconduct to appropriate legal authorities.
It is important to understand both school board discipline and juvenile court cases because both proceedings can negatively impact a child’s future. This is particularly true if a student is 17 or older since they can be treated as adults under Georgia law. To be treated as an adult, the student must be charged with certain violent offenses, including murder, aggravated sexual battery, and armed robbery committed with a firearm. Even if the student’s violation is less serious, it still may appear on his or her school record.
Whether your child is facing school board discipline or a juvenile court hearing, retaining a juvenile defense attorney to represent your child is essential. In addition to consulting a lawyer, there are also steps parents can take to prepare for their child’s hearing and to stay actively engaged and informed about their child’s case.
Kathryn Boortz has a passion for working with youth and their families. She is the founder of Boortz Law, a law firm that focuses on juvenile defense.