A Role for Peer Mediation

It caught my eye on the front page of the Boston Globe on the very last day of the year: “Far fewer students being punished.”  Always on the lookout for encouraging news, I dove in and found a pearl. According to the journalist, not only is working with students who are challenged or challenging more helpful than expelling or suspending them, but ‘working with them’ includes peer mediation.

Bingo! That’s talking about us at NSCMC! Under Anya McDavitt’s superb guidance, mediators help train students at Essex County middle and high schools to be peer mediators. We teach them the golden mediation rules about neutrality and confidentiality and we role play with them so that when called upon they really can help each other when the going gets rough. And it does. The made-up dramas that we practice are actually plucked from real events with changes made to protect confidentiality. When a guidance counselor calls Anya, it is because students really need help.

If breaking school rules like fighting in the cafeteria means suspension. It also means that students are sent home, miss important class time and most importantly, miss out on thinking about how they might make a better choice the next time. Yet, if they can discuss what happened with trained peer mediators, there is a chance to avoid suspension and lost class time. And most importantly, they can have a second chance which they own because they come up with it. That is empowerment instead of punishment.

Teachers and administrators are paying attention. Is there a peer mediation program in your child’s school? Why not?

Sandy Sheckman
Mediator, NSCMC

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