|Teen Court still in search of a new home|
|Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor|
Dec. 29, 2006 - About 30 Teen Court representatives showed up Wednesday to speak to Hopkins County Commissioners' Court about the group and ask their permission to hold their monthly meeting at the county courthouse.
The courtroom is, so far, the only facility large enough that Teen Court representatives have found since they were notified by Sulphur Springs Independent School District they could no longer meet at the old Houston school building due to safety concerns. They need a space large enough to hold between 80 and 100 students and individuals — or more — who are involved in the program monthly.
While a lot of "enlightening" information was shared regarding the program, commissioners slated another work session with Teen Court leaders and student attorneys at 10 a.m. Thursday, Jan. 4, to continue discussing "details regarding the possibility of procuring a meeting room at Hopkins County Courthouse for Teen Court Procedures," the agenda notes.
"I think it will all work out fine for them," Hopkins County Judge Cletis Millsap said Thursday afternoon. "I think the commissioners indicated that, if not at the courthouse, they would try to find a place for them to meet."
Monica Littlefield, a Teen Court board member, said at least six teen-agers involved in the program gave testimony at the meeting, and about 20 in all showed up to show their support.
"We had a great turnout as far as support," she said. "I'm proud of the kids. They do not get enough credit. They volunteer their time away from their TV and friends and other things to donate their services."
Others present Wednesday to lend their support for Teen Court were Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Yvonne King and Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Ronny Glossup, Eighth Judicial District Attorney Martin Braddy, Teen Court leaders Littlefield and attorney Eddie Northcutt, Teen Court Director Jana Jenkins, and the parents of student attorneys.
"They gave us a chance to speak. I thought they'd probably just give us the usual three minutes. They let us talk," said Littlefield.
"I think it was enlightening to find out exactly what was going on at Houston School and see exactly the impact the program has on participants, minors and juvenile offenders," Millsap said..
One big surprise, and what could turn out to be a swaying factor for the commissioner's court, was an offer by Texas Ranger Phillip Kemp to volunteer his time to provide security at court meetings if they are held at the courthouse, both Littlefield and Millsap said.
While Kemp's services help allay commissioners' security concerns, they still expressed several other worries which will factor prominently into their final decision. One was food at the courthouse; another is the already tight scheduling of courtrooms in the courthouse.
"There was not a lot of encouragement," Littlefield said. "They say they understand. Millsap is the only one of them who has come to any of our meetings.
"There's still work to be done. We were a little bit discouraged but they've indicated they will find a place for us, if not in the courthouse, maybe another facility."
Littlefield said that Teen Court has a set meeting date each month, which program officials are willing to change as needed to fit the availability of courthouse facilities. Teen Court is also willing to operate under whatever reasonable guidelines the commissioners set as provisions for using the courthouse for the monthly Teen Court meetings.