Stop Bullying in Your School
School Mediation Associates conducts a variety of
initiatives to help educators "bully-proof" their schools,
*Faculty in-service presentations and
*Coaching for teachers
*Programs for student leaders
Our 18 years of experience can help you make a
difference in your school.
Contact us for more
Welcome to the February issue of The School Mediator.
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Wishing you the best, wherever you are,
Founder and Director
School Mediation Associates
This month's feature article urges caution when
mediating disputes that involve bullying.
|Stop Mediating These Conflicts Now!
When Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold blasted their way into
Columbine High School, and the national
they forced the issue of bullying onto American
educators' overcrowded agenda. This is because Harris
and Klebold--as well as a great many of the young men
implicated in other school shootings--were the victims of
Most broadly defined, a student is being bullied when he
or she is exposed, repeatedly and over time, to
actions on the part of one or a group of more powerful
The father of the modern anti-bullying movement,
Olweus, has studied bullying for decades. A few of
highlights of Olweus' seminal research include:
* 15% of students are affected by bullying,
bullies (9%) or victims (6%). (This equals roughly 3
students in every classroom!)
* Both boys and girls bully, though a slightly
percentage of boys are involved. Male bullies tend to
use direct methods such as physical or verbal
aggression, while females are more likely to use indirect
strategies like spreading rumors or threatening to reveal
* Most students don't tell educators when they
bullied, in part because they do not believe adults can
Most significant for the peer mediation community,
Olweus and his colleagues around the globe state
unequivocally: Conflicts between bullies and their
victims should not be mediated, especially not by
Why? Research has shown that adult authority is
single most effective deterrent to bullying.
In addition, students who are victimized are usually not
very good at advocating for themselves. (This is why
bullies select them in the first place.) And students who
bully often have great difficulty taking responsibility for
their actions and empathizing with or feeling compassion
for their victims.
It is inappropriate to encourage such an asymmetrical
pair to mediate without first addressing the bully's
offensive behavior. It is analogous to the court system
coercing a person whose home was looted to "talk it out"
with an unrepentant burglar. In this context, the use of
mediation, and especially of mediation alone,
appears to implicitly condone the perpetrator's behavior
as well as put the victim in harm's way.
The prospect of bullies and victims mediating has
generated the concern of anti-bullying advocates. My
knowledge of current practice in the field convinces me
that their concerns are justified.
Whenever we encourage bullies and their victims go
peer mediation as a first resort, we do students a
Instead, the initial strategy to combat bullying has to be
the creation of a school climate in which bullying is
tolerated. Adults must take the lead in this work,
demonstrating through word and deed that bullying is
unacceptable and that those who engage in it will be
subject to unpleasant consequences.
Peer mediation coordinators must strive to prevent
victims from mediating with students who bully. The
clearest indicators of bullying are an inequality of
power and affect among parties to a conflict, and a
frequent re-occurrence of their dispute.
Peer mediation can be a second or third resort,
if, as in victim-offender mediation:
1. The harasser's behavior has been addressed
2. The victim sincerely wants to speak directly
My second book, The School Mediators Field
includes information that can help you assess whether
mediating is wise for any particular case. (Click here to read an excerpt.)
Consider initiating a campaign to stop bullying in your
school. There are a number of
excellent curricula available.
Although adults take the lead, the entire
student body can become involved as well. Even bullies
can change if they are provided with appropriate
services. The tools are available, and there is good
reason for optimism. Become informed, and act.
|The Rookies and the Veterans Revisited
|Our query in the last issue regarding ways to integrate
veteran and rookie mediators was clearly not a
button issue for our readers. We received only one
response. It is posted below:
We hold biweekly meetings and during the first few
meetings we play teambuilding games. Everyone likes
games like the Rubber Chicken game and the inner tube
game. The mediators get to know each other and have
fun together. This makes it easier when they mediate
together for the first time. As always, food is also a
great "friend-maker." We have had holiday parties where
each student brings food from their cultural background
to share with each other.
Peer Mediation Coordinator
Lowell High School, MA, USA
For almost twenty years, School Mediation Associates
has been devoted to the application and promotion of
mediation in schools. SMA's mission is to transform
schools into safer, more caring, and more effective
institutions. Our books and training programs have been utilized by tens
of thousands of people around the world.
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