05/12/05 — Wayne middle school students learn how to deal with conflict

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Wayne middle school students learn how to deal with conflict

By News-Argus Staff
Published in News on May 12, 2005 1:45 PM

Wayne County Public Schools middle school students recently had an opportunity to receive training in peer mediation. Groups of about 20 students from the seventh and eighth grades in all the middle schools have gone through or will be going through mediation training before the end of the school year.

Peer mediation and conflict resolution are parts of the school system's Safe and Drug Free Schools Program, said Dr. Ruby Bell, director of middle grade.

"Our program is designed to help our middle school students develop skills to provide a safe and structured technique that will enable them to talk about and work through conflicts and disagreements with their peers," she said.

Recently, students from Goldsboro and Dillard middle schools learned some useful skills during sessions held at Dillard. They discussed diffusing situations before they escalate into larger problems and to address existing problems through mediation.

"We need students with level heads to help when things might get topsy-turvy," Dillard principal Marvin McCoy said. "Sometimes it's hard for students to talk to adults, and that's where you come in."

Students are being trained to be "new thinkers." Part of the effort is geared toward recognizing how conflict arises when there is a perceived threat to what someone has, needs or holds dear. They examined the concept of perception, the negative effects of pre-judging people, and how real power comes from empowering someone else. Students identified how to use their skills to deal with issues such as bullying, rumors, and fighting.

They also explored types of resolution, from avoidance of the issue in lose/lose relationship, to accommodation by one party or by competition in a lose/win situation, and finally a win/win solution that is characterized by focusing on problem solving to produce good long-term, balanced results.

The key word is cooperation, said Patsy McCoy, education coordinator with the Dispute Settlement Center. She said students create a win/win relationship by talking about the problem, listening to each other, being respectful, and working together.

The Dispute Settlement Center has trained hundreds of peer mediators in schools throughout eastern North Carolina. Glenn Faison, executive director, said that conflict resolution and mediation reduces the number of suspensions and drop outs as well as improves grades by keeping students in school.