School-based peer mediation is one of the most popular and effective approaches to integrating the practice of conflict resolution into schools. From the start of the modern “conflict resolution in education” (CRE) movement in the early 1980’s, peer mediation has been one of its centerpieces. Many thousands of schools in the US and in dozens of other countries have implemented peer mediation programs, and these efforts serve almost every conceivable student population. The mission of most schools includes helping young people develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that will enable them to succeed as adults. One of the most essential sets of skills is the ability to resolve conflicts effectively.
Peer mediation teaches mediation skills to students so they can help mediate disputes that other students are having—hence the label, “peer mediation.” Peer mediation encourages students to apply conflict resolution skills when it matters most—when they are in dispute.
Mediations may occur at any time and can usually be completed in less than a class period. Staff and student mediators should be thoroughly trained to work through all of the stages of mediation. One example of a successful Peer Mediation Program in practice is East Hartford High School in East Hartford, CT. “Here at the Student Assistance Center, we offer a safe zone for the students of East Hartford High School. As a nationally recognized program, the S.A.C. fosters a safe environment where students can go within the school to vent, organize, and put to practice their feelings, needs, and emotions in a professional setting.” East Granby Schools in East Granby, CT is taking a district approach for implementation. The administrators understand the need for students to develop healthy socialization skills and learn how to establish and sustain one-to-one relationships.
Giving students ownership of and leadership in their learning environments fosters healthy experiences academically, physically, and emotionally, better preparing them to move successfully into their chosen career paths. For further information and topic reading I would suggest, “The Student Assistance Center” by Mary Meggie, Dr. Steven Edwards, and Denneth Gwozdz.
~Kim Jones, Edwards Ed consultant