|Frequently Asked Questions|
Will I have to step in when I witness an argument or a fight?
Will mediators miss a lot of class time?
How much time will the mediation sessions take?
Where will the mediations take place?
Will students request mediation in order to avoid "punishment?"
What about disputes involving violence?
Does the coordinator need to be present during the mediation sessions?
How do we respond to the parents of the mediators when they express concern about the safety of their children during and after the mediation sessions?
It is recommended that all referrals to mediation be made through an adult. It is often difficult for students to determine what is mediable and what is not. In cases involving physical violence, most school administrators deal with these incidents or disputes according to the protocols in the school discipline policy.
Very often, conflicts occur at recess and lunchtime. The mediators on duty usually handle these conflicts as they occur.
Deciding whether or not to hold mediation sessions during class time is a school-based decision to be made collaboratively with staff, keeping in mind that one of the criteria for the selection of students to be trained in mediation is that they are willing to take responsibility for catching up on missed class work.
Students in dispute find it difficult to concentrate on the lesson or task at hand as they expand their emotional energy thinking of ways to get even or simply focusing on their feelings of anger, frustration etc. Once again, the referral is made through the teacher who needs to make a judgment call based on the particular incident in question.
This is a difficult question to answer because of the many variables involved. As a rule, it a mediation session at the elementary level takes longer than 20 to 25 minutes, the coordinator may need to become involved. Since most disputes are relatively simple and the disputants are there because they have agreed to participate, the process should be quite different.
Ideally, there peer mediation program should have a room of its own. If at all possible, this room would be adjacent to the administrative office or the room or office of the program coordinator. It is comforting for the mediators to know that adult assistance is close at hand should it be required.
Within the mediation room you will need a table and four chairs.
Most interpersonal conflicts between students do not involve a violation of a school rule. The purpose of mediation is to resolve disputes.
When a student is discovered writing graffiti on the walls of the washroom or throwing a rock at a classmate, obviously mediation is not appropriate and these incidents are dealt with according to school policy. Mediation does not compromise the school's discipline policy. It is important that work be done with all students in the school to enhance their understanding of mediation and it applications.
Schools deal with these disputes according to the policies developed internally. Often, students involved in these incidents, if serious in nature, are suspended from school for a period of one to five days. However, when these students return, they usually do so with the dispute left unresolved and it may flare up again. It would certainly be beneficial to offer mediation to allow the students an opportunity to work out the resolved dispute between them.
One of the advantages of running a mediation program is that the disputants feel freer to talk to their peers than a teacher or administrator. In knowing that the role of the mediators is one of facilitation, not judgment or punishment, students will feel more comfortable in telling their stories openly and honestly.
Once the mediators are trained and comfortable with their role and the process, there is really no need for an adult to be in the room during the mediation process. Initially, after training, the coordinator may wish to observe the mediators in action in order to give feed back and suggestions. As a courtesy, it is good practice to ask the disputants if they would allow you (the coordinator) to observe.
During the session, it is very important no to intervene, as difficult as that may be at times !
First, as previously mentioned, an adult should always be close at hand when a session is underway and potentially "dangerous" conflicts are not sent to mediation.
Because peer mediators do not take sides, or impose punishments, experience has shown that the disputants are usually grateful to have an opportunity to talk through their problem and it would be most unusual for any form of retaliation to take place after the mediation session.
The mediators' assurance of their confidentiality is another factor which makes the disputants appreciate the process and develop a genuine respect for confidence in the mediators.
Once parents have developed an understanding of the mediation program, they are often its most vocal supporters !