Chaparral Elementary School is starting a peer mediation program and recently, students from Sossaman Middle School visited to train them.
Peer mediation allows students to find resolution to relationship issues without direct intervention from an adult on campus. Several Higley schools are starting programs, including Sossaman Middle School.
It was begun by school counselor Dena Morgan last fall.
“It’s less intimidating for kids to come together with peers than with adults in the room to talk about conflict and resolution,” she said.
When students – or staff – see a situation in need of mediation, it is brought to the attention of a school counselor or administrator. Then, the peer mediators on duty that day are brought to the office to meet with the students who are at odds.
Four peer mediators from Sossaman Middle School spent a morning last week training the newly selected peer mediators at Chaparral Elementary School.
After learning more about each other, the two sets of students spent time going over the Peer Mediators notebooks, which include guidelines and steps to take during peer mediation. The students also practiced in mock situations.
Peer mediators were advised to repeat what they hear so the students involved in the dispute know they’re being taken seriously. They were also reminded to repeat the rules of mediation: No interrupting, no name calling, telling the truth, coming to an agreement and sticking to it.
All peer mediation sessions are confidential between the parties, they said.
Sossaman student Kiki Roust said the mediation session guidelines were helpful as she got started as a mediator last fall. Now, she said, she doesn’t need to look at the instructions.
“Once you get the steps down, you just do it,” she told the students.
Ms. Morgan agreed.
“It guides us. You start with them but then it becomes more natural,” she said.
Ms. Morgan started the peer mediation program at Sossaman Middle School in October. Students were recommended by staff, applied, and then were interviewed before being selected. The same process was used at Chaparral and other Higley schools with peer mediators.
Situations that can be mediated by students are gossip/rumors, relationship conflicts, poor sportsmanship, personal items borrowed and not returned or theft accusations, putdowns, name calling, and other sensitivity issues.
“I like to use my mediators to meet with students that have come back from suspension after a fight. The students that were fighting have time to cool off for a few days, and then when they return to school, they can meet with the mediators to ensure no other issues will occur again,” Ms. Morgan said.
“Peer mediation is a great way to help students deal with their problems and not stuff them inside. It’s a safe place for students to share their sides of the story and come up with their own resolutions. The mediators do not tell the disputants what to do, because students will do what they say they will do much more often than when they are told what to do.”
It’s been so successful at Sossaman, Principal Nancy Diab said, that there have been no peer mediation referrals in the second semester.
“We have seen a reduction in referrals due to this intervention program,” Ms. Diab said.
Students like it because it offers another way to work out issues with classmates.
“I feel now there is someone to go to besides the principals. This definitely helps us lower problems at school,” said Maria Boyer.
Chaparral student Alyssa Alexander is looking forward to seeing the changes at her school.
“I like how we’re going to be able to help people,” she said. “I like how we can then use the skills at home.”
Grace Bramlet agreed.
“It will make a big difference. Now there are different ways for our peers not to argue,” she said.