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<xTITLE>Student/Peer Mediation: A Multi-Purpose Tool</xTITLE>

Student/Peer Mediation: A Multi-Purpose Tool

by Jim Eisele
May 2003
After reviewing several articles regarding student/peer mediation, one thing is clear: student/peer mediations have several benefits, many of which are long-lasting.

In a 1999 article entitled “Student mediators step in when trouble brews ” by the American News Service, it is suggested by eighth-grade peer mediator Amy Ortiz that mediating differences as they arise has brought about a significant decrease in the number of violent altercations. Additionally, the American News Service quotes the assistant principal Denise Johnston of Alameda Middle School in Santa Fe, NM as saying “mediation lets students explore their feelings and get to the root of the problem”. Additionally, they report Johnston as saying that “…they’re learning skills that they can apply later”. Another benefit, the American News Service reports, is that when students sit down with mediators, they can work out an agreement that allows both sides to feel safe and unthreatened. One of the volunteer adult mediators, Katharine Lee reported in that same article that “the mediation is extremely helpful. It provides students with tools for dealing with conflict”.

Secondly, in the article entitled “Peer mediation in Chautauqua County, N.Y. schools ”, by the Jamestown Area Labor-Management Committee (JALMC), it suggests that peer mediation provides students and teachers an alternative to the traditional system of discipline in schools. JALMC also states that student mediators assist their peers in resolving their disputes by encouraging constructive communication, assisting students in taking responsibility for their actions, and help to clarify the students’ needs and feelings. JALMC also reports that in addition to providing the students with problem solving, critical thinking, and listening skills, peer mediation prepares students to be citizens in a complex and conflict-ridden world. JALMC also suggests that school-based mediation programs provide several proven benefits to schools, including: reduced suspensions, detentions, and expulsions, improved communications among students, teachers, administrators and parents, improved school climate, a decrease in violence, vandalism and habitual school absenteeism, provides students with a direct forum for resolving conflicts without using the time of the administration personnel, resolves conflicts permanently by addressing the underlying causes, and allows teachers to spend more time teaching.

Thirdly, Nancy Kaplan, in an article originally published by School Safety, Winter 1996, entitled “Student mediation: opportunity and challenge ” reports that teaching students to employ conflict resolution skills produces significant results in decreasing school confrontations and violence. She goes on to say that the concepts and skills taught in mediation training are very comparable to those taught in anger management training. Additionally, Kaplan states that one of the benefits of student mediation training is its therapeutic effect upon the participants.

Finally, Shana Slater, in her article entitled “Teens help peers keep the peace ”, states that when teens counsel other students on anger management and conflict resolution during the peer mediation process, it could help prevent terrible, violent incidents such as Columbine High in Colorado, as well as incidents in Arkansas, Oregon and Kentucky from happening.

As these authors suggest, student/peer mediation can be a strong, helpful tool in many ways, and not in just the traditional “conflict resolution” sense.

As a means of closure, I would also like to comment on a few items, as this editorial will be my last as a guest on this site.

This editorship has been a great growing experience for me. It has provided a forum for me to interact with those others in the same general field as I am involved with. I can tell you that mediation works, from personal experience. I have represented the company I work for on numerous occasions in mediations, and I would say that out of probably the ten I have been involved with, nine of the cases have settled. These are personal injury cases, not involving youth and schools, but the same basic premise exists in most all mediations, regardless of the issues the parties bring to the table. This editorship has also provided me the benefit of getting to know and interact with people who have many years of experience in the area of conflict resolution/mediation, something that I do not currently have.

Overall being a guest editor has been an enriching experience, one I will not soon forget. I appreciate the opportunity from the gracious people at Mediate.com to be part of this great resource, and in the future, I will certainly recommend those interested to this website.

Jim a final year graduate student earning my Master of Arts: Negotiation and Conflict Management degree from California State University - Dominguez Hills. I am the father of three boys ages 1, 2 and 5, with the oldest being in Kindergarten. Additionally, I am an elected member of the Hall School District Board in North Platte, Nebraska, and serve on the Safety, School Improvement, Technology, and Building and Grounds committees.