LACBA Update Back Issues - March 2015

Developing Problem-Solving Skills through Mediation Starts at an Early Age

Editor's Note: LACBA Center for Civic Mediation (Center) provides a comprehensive array of workshops, trainings, and curricular programs designed to reduce and prevent acts of frustration and violence among youth. Services include early intervention and violence prevention programs on school campuses in the Los Angeles Unified School District, the Santa Monica/Malibu Unified School District, and several surrounding school districts. Programs include: student peer mediation, parent education seminars, teacher and faculty training, and conflict resolution curriculum and classroom activities. The Center also provides conflict resolution education workshops, training, and consultation on how to set up effective programs to schools, districts, and other community-based organizations.

Here is one peer mediation case:

Michael and Tyler (not their real names), now in the 7th grade, have been in the same classes and activities since elementary school. From the very beginning, they’ve had a competitive relationship and have had run-ins with each other periodically.

This most recent incident in middle school was an escalation of a continuous string of interactions over a number of years. But Michael had had enough after a lunch altercation with Tyler, who was swinging his water bottle around and clipped Michael in the head. Michael was extremely upset and believed Tyler did it on purpose. The school principal asked the boys to participate in a mediation through the Peer Mediation Program designed by LACBA Center for Civic Mediation on their school campus, but Michael did not want to be in the same room as Tyler, so the mediation was held with the two boys in separate rooms. 

Michael wanted Tyler to stay away from him entirely, but since they shared the same classes, this was not a viable solution. The mediator asked each boy to come up with suggestions to make it possible for them to co-exist. They both agreed that during class time they would not interact with one another and would respect each other’s space. A more challenging issue was how to co-exist during recess and lunch, because they shared a lot of the same friends and usually sat on a particular bench. Eventually, they agreed to keep away from each other, and if one person came within a certain space of the other, one would volunteer to leave. 

Only a couple of weeks had gone by before the principal requested another mediation. He reported that Tyler wasn’t holding up his part of the agreement. The mediator called Michael in first and asked him to mediate with Tyler face-to-face. During the session, he explained to Tyler that he has felt bullied by him since elementary school and that he would like all interaction with Tyler to stop. Tyler had no idea how Michael felt and was surprised when he heard what he had to say. Tyler then apologized, telling Michael he never meant to make him feel that way and that he would respect Michael's wishes. 

The two boys ended the mediation on a better note and agreed that if things weren't working out, they would return to mediation to receive more help.

For more information about the LACBA Center for Civic Mediation, please contact Andrew Culberson, Director, at aculberson@centerforcivicmediation.org.