Mediators help peers resolve conflicts

Freshmen involved in confrontations at Kingman High School South are visiting assistant principal Gary Blanton, who handles disciplinary situations, less often thanks to a peer mediation program in its second year.

Principal Kim Ordway came up with the idea.

"What (the program) has done is send students to mediation before fighting and cut down on the number of fights," Ordway said.

"I'd say fights are down by at least 50 percent.

"It's peer-driven and the kids value it as they listen to each other.

In many cases, they come up with consequences that are stiffer than we would impose."

Kim Robbins, a guidance counselor at the school, is the peer mediation adviser.

Figures she compiled indicate there were 127 mediations during the 2000-2001 school year.

There have been 179 mediations involving 504 students this school year.

The three most common disputes are: misunderstandings, miscommunication or rumors; mishandling of the conflict which may lead to fights or threats to fight; and boyfriend/girlfriend relationship issues.

Students involved in a dispute can sign a mediation agreement in which they pledge to find and accept a solution.

Students who decline to participate are sent to Blanton, who has a way of convincing the student to agree to mediation, Robbins said.

Robbins has 20 peer mediators, among them Julie McCoy and Josh Griffis.

The students received two days of mediation training from Tiki Zerr in the mediation program of Mohave County Superior Court, Robbins said.

"I got involved because I like to feel as if I've helped my peers resolve a conflict and become friends," McCoy said.

Griffis said Robbins asked him to become a peer mediator.

It sounded like an interesting way to become more involved at school, he said.

Griffis has mediated 12 disputes, McCoy seven or eight.

Students normally take turns in a rotation at mediating.

But if a mediator happens to be a friend of a student in a dispute, he or she often abstains from mediating and someone else steps in.

"There are times when students may request me to mediate," Griffis said.

"We take turns, but if a student is not comfortable with the student scheduled to mediate he or she may ask Mrs.

Robbins for someone else."

McCoy said most of her mediations have concerned boyfriend/girlfriend relationship issues or fact-finding cases that eliminate misunderstandings.

Griffis said he has mediated between students in fist fights and prevented fights

"Sometimes students will fight over stuff and they don't even know what they're fighting about," McCoy said.

The mediation process involves three steps.

Mediators introduce themselves to the disputing students and ask each whether he or she wants to resolve the conflict.

If the answer is yes, both parties sign the mediation agreement.

Then, each party tells his or her story.

The mediator asks key questions like, "How do you feel about what happened" and "Is anything else bothering you?"

Additional questions help clarify the situation and identify the issues in dispute.

Step three involves brainstorming among the disputing students and mediator.

The mediator asks the students for suggestions on how to resolve the conflict.

Eventually, a mutually agreeable solution is worked out.

"Peer mediation has helped me understand other people," McCoy said.

"I use the things from my training and listen to both sides of a story."

Griffis said he does not intend to pursue mediation as a career, but that the experience will help him.

Other peer mediators are Andrew Adams, Seth Angle, Sharlie Arredondo, Karl Brown, Cheryl Carlson, Brandon DeLong, Stacy Gregg, Brett Hale, Amanda Kramer, Lanae Mullane, Jon Perez, Bryson Ross, Travis Shelton, Greg Short, Cheryl Snow, Nate Tomlin, Jacob Wendt and Chris Williams.