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School-Based Mediation Programs

The comprehensive high school format is dead, according to a recent story on National Public Radio. Turns out that the model which was supposed to enhance learning while reducing overhead expenses didn’t work as well as planned. Smaller academy style schools that focus on a specific curriculum and encourage community are now rapidly gaining favor.

It struck me that today’s schools are more violent than ever, and there doesn’t seem to be a good way to stem the tide. Maybe if there were more peer mediation programs.

Peer Mediation in the 90’s

Years ago, just after the ice age, I worked for School Mediation Associates,a peer mediation training firm founded by Richard Cohen, who literally wrote the book on peer mediation design. Many a day I visited a middle or high school where I feared for my safety… and so did the kids.

Peer mediation showed these kids, who were plagued by bullying and threats, that there was another way to respond to ‘a beef’ besides fighting or killing. It was gratifying to see these young minds take the basics of mediation and transform it into something raw yet oddly elegant and highly effective. And, all the while they were being transformed themselves into better students and better citizens of the world.

The power of peer mediation to change lives is undeniable. I know because I’ve been told. Years after I stopped working with Richard and the SCORE program in Mass, I ran into one of the ‘bad boys’ we’d roped into taking the peer mediation course at his school. He explained that he’d only agreed to participate as a way of avoiding suspension. But that afterwards he felt differently about himself. Being a mediator helped him see himself as a leader and as a result he graduated and was attending a college that had a peer mediation program. I was stunned and grateful to think I’d had a small part in it.

Youth-based Mediation Practice

Knowing how my mind works, I began to think of different ways to bring mediation skills-critical life skills- to kids in a variety of venues. Here are a few ideas:

  1. Adding a school/peer mediation component to a family practice (the line between family and school is getting blurrier)
  2. Serving as a mediator for youth disputes in a school district
  3. Developing peer mediation training for youth groups like the Little League or community sports (heck, you might even get some, eh, adult disputes, too)

What does that mean to you? Consider this niche. I found it satisfying and ultimately very hopeful, and I think you might, too. Drop me a note and tell me what you think.

                        author

Dina Beach Lynch

Dina Beach Lynch is a Workplace Mediator and Conflict Coach who supports professional practice groups. MORE >

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