In this case, his honor the judge was really her honors the three judges, and when they spoke, students at Eisenhower Junior High School listened.
After hearing both prosecution and defense witnesses, the young judges, Sara Cantonwine, Kristine Thurgood and Kim Bodine, decided that Todd Swallow was guilty of an infraction of school rules. He had failed to be out of the hallway and in class on time.Swallow's defense - that he didn't think it was possible to be late for an LDS seminary class - didn't hold water. He didn't convince the judges that he wasn't sure he was the person hall monitors were addressing at the time. His defense attorney got nowhere when she explained that Swallow had been excused to run to get in shape for wrestling.
Todd even had his headband still on at the time, the young defender, Yu Wen Hwang, pointed out, but that only led to some discussion of whether having the headband on might have constituted yet another infraction. The bands are banned at Eisenhower except during participation in athletic activities.
The defense arguments were to no avail. The panel of justices conferred in the hallway, then ruled that Swallow must spend two hours in after-school time.
Earlier, the court had passed a more severe sentence on a student found guilty of using profanity against a substitute teacher. The prosecutor even hesitated over the words that the offender had used but forged ahead to bring about justice.
"He was disrespectful and boasted about it," charged prosecutor Allen Earl. "He has been in this court three times and hasn't learned his lesson."
Another case demonstrated the flip side of the court. Four students who had been "caught doing good work" received awards from the judges - vouchers to use in the school's student-operated store. Witnesses had seen the quartet, Kristie Lyon, Michelle Green, Melissa Harr and Jason Lair, reading after completing an assignment - as they were supposed to do.
Eisenhower's court is a manifestation of the junior high's philosophy that students should be integrally involved in the operation of the school, said Principal Ron Hermanson. The court is just part of a comprehensive student government that has significant input into setting and enforcing school standards.
The court has received national attention and was honored this winter by Utah's Legislature. The school gets many inquiries from other states who are interested in replicating the successful program, Hermanson said.
Eisenhower's administration and faculty take care to see that outstanding students are selected to serve in the judicial and executive branches of student government, then stand behind the young leaders as they carry out their charge, he said.
The effect has been improvement in the school's atmosphere and a decrease in the number of confrontations between students and adults in the school.
"The kids in the court tend to be more severe, sometimes, than administrators or teachers might be," said "Senor" Randy Hortin, faculty adviser to the court. He is a Spanish teacher whose "senor" sobriquet sticks even in the courtroom setting.
Last year, the court had 957 referrals and imposed 461 "consequences." Through December of this year, the tally of referrals was 403.
The 1989-90 cases included 168 referrals for disruptive or general misbehavior; 85 tardies; 31 for failure to make up teacher detentions or student-imposed extra time; 23 for inappropriate language or gestures; 21 for disrespect to faculty or officers; 20 for sluffing; 20 for throwing objects in classrooms or hallways; and 11 other or "rather weird" offenses.
Fewer than 10 offenses were logged in other categories such as abusing or destroying school property, spitting, stealing, belching in class on purpose, lying or entering restricted areas.
The number of referrals to the court and the number of repeat offenders decreased this year over last, Hortin reported.