Can mediation help change kids’ behaviour?

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Brandon Mayhue, 15, talks with his math teacher, Wendy Winston, at Alger Middle School on Monday, October 28, 2013. Alger is one of three Grand Rapids Public Schools which will pilot a restorative justice program, in which disciplinary issues will be mediated instead of students being suspended. The other schools in the pilot are Campus Elementary and Gerald R. Ford Academic Center. Grand Rapid schools held a forum Tuesday, Nov. 12, at Messiah Missionary Baptist Church to discuss the program. Image via Emily Zoladz MLive.com

 

One objective of mediation is to help parties understand their own underlying motivations, needs and concerns, and gain insight into those of the other party. Once these underlying interests have been uncovered, the parties are more likely to reach a durable solution to their dispute. The process puts the power back into the hands of the disputants, rather than having a decision imposed by a third-party such as a judge.

Schools in the Grand Rapids district of Michigan, USA, are using mediation to address students’ behaviour, and offering them the opportunity to be part of the solution, rather than issuing automatic suspension. It is hoped this will break the cycle of rule breaking and punishment than can lead some kids into a life of crime and disadvantage.

One of the goals is for the student who has broken a school rule to accept responsibility for his or her actions while resolving the problem in a way that is fair and acceptable to all parties involved in the incident.

“I think this is really great because we need to move away from punishment and suspensions to helping students learn how resolve conflicts peacefully and respectfully,” said Jared Siangani, a community member who works with youth on the Southeast Side.

The pilot program empowers the students to be a part of the solution, rather than doling out punishment arbitrarily. You can read more about the program at the mlive website.

Have you had experience with mediation for kids? Do you think it would be useful in your local school or community? Share your stories in the comment section below.

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