What is peer mediation?

Shellie Zamponi ‘15

Focus Editor

 

It’s lunch. Everyone is eating their own food. Suddenly, there’s a commotion coming from the other side of the lunchroom. A group of spectators gather around the uproar, watching as two girls verbally assault each other and splay spiteful names and words towards one another. The fight elevates and who knows what will happen.
Peer mediators are trying to stop this.
Making its debut this year, peer mediation is a group of 20 students working to help solve other students’ problems.
Peer mediator DeAsia Nash ’14 described the program as, “students helping students create peace in our own school.”
Mediator Mikayla Jefferson ’14 describes the run-down of a mediation session: The peer mediators and disputants meet and go into a conference room. The mediators recite rules for the disputants to follow during the session. These include listening to only the mediators in the beginning, and no interrupting while another person is talking. A series of questions is asked to both disputants about what happened or what the problem is, their feelings on the matter, and what they need from each other. An agreement follows and then the disputants as well as the mediators sign a contract agreeing to abide by one another’s needs.
“We try to help them to solve their own problems so that they can fix their own problems next time,” Mediator Stefan Szkipala ’16 said.
The sessions usually take about half an hour.
If needed, a follow-up appointment can be made and the disputant is able to request the same mediator.
Having just appeared this year, the program is still not well known.
“It was made to help reduce harassment and bullying,” Dean of Students James Ellis said, “It‘s an outlet for students to let their problems out before they act on it.”
And it is doing just that.
Peer mediator Kierra McQuerry ’15 said, “We solved a lot of problems at the beginning of the school year that would have led to a lot of fights.”
One of the main differences in this program, besides having students helping solve students’ problems, is that there are no adults in the room.
“It’s not like you’re being chastised or judged by a teacher,” peer mediator Mariah Moorer ’16 said.
“The disputants feel more comfortable when they have the ability to discuss their issue in their own style of speaking,” Jefferson said.
Peer mediation is available to anyone, in every grade. A signup sheet is available outside of Ellis’ office in the commons, where disputants can sign themselves up. Teachers can also request students to attend a session if they notice the student is having a problem.
Many of the peer mediators vigorously agreed that the program is truly working.
Nash said, “Throughout my four years, I feel that this year is a ‘nation’ rather than students against each other.”
Online site School Mediation Associates said, “Close to 90 percent of all mediation sessions result in an agreement that satisfies not only the parties, but teachers, administrators, and parents as well.”
Not only is the program helping out students in the present, but also it is preparing them for the future.
Smart Schools, another online site, said, “The emerging global economy requires workers…who can analyze new situations, come up with creative solutions, and take responsibility for decisions relating to the performance of their jobs.”
This program helps with that by teaching the students conflict resolution skills.
Through peer mediation the students learn how to evaluate a situation and communicate what they are feeling; they can then take these skills to the work place. Students also learn to come to an understanding with those with whome they may disagree.
Altogether, peer mediation is bringing LCN together, creating peace, and preparing the students for the future.