Peer Mediation a ‘Win-Win’ for Oklahoma Students
By Phil Johnson and Jane McConnell
It’s a typical day in an Oklahoma public school. In the hallway during the rush to get to class, two students exchange harsh words and a fistfight breaks out — putting other students in physical danger. The two students could be suspended, pushing them behind in their school work and setting up further confrontation in the future, but there might be a better alternative. Enter PROS — Peaceful Resolutions for Oklahoma Students — a peer-based mediation program that equips these students with the skills they need to resolve their conflicts peacefully and effectively, while learning respect for each other in the process.
PROS is a collaborative project of the OBA and the Administrative Office of the Courts. The program provides peer mediation training to students in fourth grade and up. Students in turn serve as mediators when conflicts arise, and disputes are not only resolved but prevented. Schools across Oklahoma have utilized this conflict resolution program that inspires their students to communicate more effectively and to bring peace to their school campuses.
“It has been a very effective program in our school,” said Shawnee Middle School counselor Angela Lindsay. “Students who go through the training program gain skills in active listening and role playing. When students have a conflict resolved by a peer, we rarely see them twice for the same issue.”
Many Oklahoma schools, both large and small, have very diverse student bodies representing different ethnic backgrounds, social statuses and extracurricular interests. There are many positives to diversity, especially the opportunity to interact and learn from one another. Diversity can also present challenges, especially among students who have not yet mastered the skill of respecting those who are different.
“The training really opens doors for understanding how to walk in someone else’s shoes,” Ms. Lindsay said. “The program emphasizes understanding and acceptance, and it shows up even in their day-to-day interactions with each other. The students who serve as conflict mediators become positive role models and leaders in the school.”
The stages of peer mediation include the opportunity for each student to tell his or her own side of the story, the opportunity to empathize with the other student’s point of view, discussion of how to solve the existing problem and a written agreement. These mediation programs have been shown to decrease violence, fighting, bullying and suspensions while increasing self and mutual respect along with a positive learning climate. As arguments de-crease, learning goes up.
Administrators, counselors, teachers and students are trained at no cost in regional trainings held each fall in Oklahoma City and Tulsa. Additional training events are held throughout the year in several inner-city schools. Students who receive the training discover that PROS instills invaluable communication skills benefitting them not only in school but in life beyond.
WANT PROS IN YOUR SCHOOL?
More information about PROS is available on the bar association’s website at www.okbar.org/public/lre/pros
. To find out how to set up a PROS training session in a school in your community, contact the OBA Law-related Education Department at 405-416-7005.
Benefits of a School Conflict Mediation Program
• Conflict mediators gain confidence in their ability to help themselves
• Conflict mediators learn to get along better at home and at school
• Conflict mediators’ grades often improve
• Other students learn how to get along with each other better from conflict mediators
• Conflict mediators often become peer leaders in their school and community
• Arguments decrease, so students spend more time learning
• Students and teachers are able to work together in a friendlier and relaxed way
ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Phil Johnson is the peer mediation specialist for the Administrative Office of the Courts. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Jane McConnell is Law-related Education coordinator for the Oklahoma Bar Association. She may be contacted at email@example.com
Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal, OBJ 85 357 (Feb. 15, 2014)