Peer Mediation in Adams County

by Mary Kay Turner

Are you aware that children are mediating disputes? Peer Mediation is the name for school programs in which students are trained to use mediation techniques to help their peers solve conflicts. Peer Mediation is used primarily to take care of problems on the playground. This is a big help to the playground supervisors because they can concentrate on the overall environment and Peer Mediators can work to solve conflicts between individuals, which can be very time-consuming and can carry over to the classroom.

Peer mediation programs are usually directed by guidance counselors, but an interested teacher may also institute the program. First the adult is trained to mediate and also to train students to mediate. The mediation training for students teaches the peer mediators to remain calm and neutral in the conflicts.

There are different models for Peer Mediation but all have similar steps. The Peer Mediators meet with the students in conflict and establish ground rules including respect of all persons involved and no interruptions. Each party tells about the incident. Together they define the problem so that all feel their concerns are addressed. Then students on both sides brainstorm possible solutions. Next they discuss possible consequences of some of the solutions. Together they plan what they will do the next time they encounter each other.

The person directing the program chooses the students to be trained as mediators. Often these students are those with excellent behavior and good academic skills. However, some counselors choose students who have problems getting along with other students. They have found that these students may especially benefit from the training and make great improvement in their own behavior in addition to helping other students as they learn better communication and listening skills.

Through the last two decades many Peer Mediation programs have been initiated in different places and people have studied the effects. Some positive effects have been noted: mediators learned communication skills that will be helpful throughout their lives, students prone to conflict benefit by repeatedly being guided through the mediation process, and even students who were not involved learned by seeing others go through the process. A substitute teacher stated in a public meeting about having stopped teaching in a certain middle school because of all the arguing and fighting there, then feeling a different atmosphere upon returning the next year and hearing students talking about contracts and mediation.

A survey of Adams County guidance counselors revealed only one Peer Mediation program, which is directed by Mrs. Malone, guidance counselor at Lincoln Elementary School, grades 4-5, in Gettysburg. She trains 45 peer mediators each August and they have monthly updates. They help mediate recess conflicts in a rotating schedule for the 475 students in the school.

Mediation Services of Adams County will conduct a 22-hour Mediation Training March 5-7, 19-20, 2010. If you would like more information about Mediation, this training and available scholarships, please contact Mediation Services of Adams County at 717-334-7312, mediationac@yahoo.com or check out our website, http://www.mediateadams.org.

Mary Kay Turner is a teacher who is also a board member, volunteer mediator and trainer for Mediation Services of Adams County.