William Woods University to host Callaway County truancy court proceedings in university’s unique model courtroom

Collaboration between university, Family Court/Juvenile Office of Callaway County and area schools to address absenteeism, provide practical experience for WWU students

Students at William Woods University (WWU) with an interest in the law will soon be getting another rare opportunity for practical experience in the judicial system, while helping to address the community concern of school truancy, thanks to the formation of a new community partnership.

Beginning in August, WWU will be hosting the Working to Inspire Student Education (WISE) Court proceedings in its Bernard Weitzman Model Courtroom, a fully-functioning courtroom on campus. The WISE Court program is a collaboration between William Woods, the Family Court and Juvenile Office of Callaway County, and the school districts of Fulton, New Bloomfield, North and South Callaway to improve academic performance by reducing excessive absenteeism.

Members of the news media are invited to attend a meeting of the WISE Court at the Bernard Wietzman Model Courtroom, located in the Burton Business and Economics Building on the WWU campus, at 4 p.m. on Thursday, May 3. Officials from Callaway County; the Fulton, New Bloomfield, North and South Callaway School Districts, and William Woods will be available for interviews.

“We are pleased to partner with Callaway County and the area school districts as part of the WISE Court program, which will help address a community concern while providing a unique opportunity for our students,” said Jahnae H. Barnett, president of William Woods University. “This is another example of how William Woods students with an interest in the law or criminal justice get to receive rare, hands-on legal experience here that is not found at other similar colleges.”

William Woods is the only university in the state of Missouri without a law school that has a fully functional model courtroom, which was built to benefit students in the university’s political science, legal and paralegal studies, and criminal justice majors, with practical courtroom experience. The advent of the WISE Court being housed at WWU is in addition to the Western District Court of Appeals holding its annual docket each year in the Weitzman Model Courtroom, which it has done for the past 20 years.

“In drawing upon the wisdom and experience of truancy courts throughout the state, we feel like we are putting together a pretty good program,” said Sue Crane, associate circuit judge of the Thirteenth Judicial Circuit. “The inclusion of William Woods University simply enhances the effort and takes it to a whole new level. We look forward to developing this very new and unique type of truancy court for middle school students in Callaway County.”

“The implementation of the WISE Court will provide another opportunity for our campus and students to serve the community,” said Cynthia Kramer, professor of legal studies and pre-law advisor at William Woods. “Our students in political science, legal studies, criminal justice and other majors will be able to apply for a variety of roles within the WISE Court, including court liaison, bailiff, mentor and tutor. They will work with participating school administrators and students, parents and juvenile officers to help address this important issue.”

The WISE Court program will be a voluntary diversion program targeting students from middle schools in the four participating school districts where there has been a pattern of excessive absenteeism. The primary goal of the program is increased attendance, improved academic performance for participating students and less referrals to the Family Court, Juvenile Division. Court proceedings will be used to identify strategies to resolve the student’s attendance problem, with goals the student must accomplish to complete the program. Failure to complete the WISE Court diversion would send the student’s case next through the formal judicial process.

Positions for WWU students will be developed to take advantage of each students’ areas of interest. For example, an education major may oversee a study hall, provide homework assistance or aid middle school students with WISE Court assignments; social work students may provide mentoring or help identify and solve barriers to school attendance; Criminal Justice students may serve as bailiffs during court proceedings, or legal studies students may serve as advocates during court.