A student court is a panel of students which comprise the judicial branch of a student government organization. Not all student governments have a student court, and the role of the student court varies, depending on the policies determined by the individual school. Student courts can be seen at all levels of education from elementary school to college, and they are especially common in schools that run along military lines, as courts of peers are especially popular in military justice systems.
The members of a student court may be elected by fellow students, or appointed by school officials or other branches of student government. In either case, they are selected on their merits, with members of a student court being known for impartiality, an ability to weigh and interpret evidence, and a willingness to enforce the letter of the law. Student courts may meet on a regular basis to discuss various judicial issue, or they may be convened for specific cases.
Student courts are designed to investigate their fellow students and to mete out punishments appropriately. The idea behind a student court is that a student body should be as self-regulating as possible, and rather than allowing punishments to be imposed by external parties such as school employees, students should be able to investigate and punish each other from within the framework of student government. This independent model of student government is designed to closely mirror the actual government outside the school, and to promote direct student involvement in issues which impact the school.
Investigations of Honor Code violations and violations of other school policies may be carried out by a student court, with the accused often being able to retain an advocate who helps him or her navigate the court system. Student courts also engage in conflict resolution, working to achieve amicable settlements to differences of opinion. Many of them also interpret school policies and bylaws, handing down rulings which can be used to enforce policies consistently. Issues like bullying, cheating, abuse, and a wide variety of other policy violations can be handled in a student court.
In an example of a case which might come before a student court, a high school athlete might be accused of cheating on a science test. The student court would hear the evidence in the case and decide whether or not the athlete is guilty, and, if so, what punishment should be meted out. The student court might have the power to suspend the athlete from school, to force the athlete to sit out several games, or to kick the athlete off the team, for example.