responses of The School Mediator
As I understand it, you gave the power to select new mediators
to the veterans. They went through the process and made their
selections. But you don't like the selections. So now you
want to "intervene". Right?
And what message, exactly, does that send about respect for
other people's decisions, their ability to solve their own
problems and settle their own disputes?
Barry Goldman, Mediator and Arbitrator in private practice
Detroit, MI, USA
My suggestion regarding the coordinator's ethical dilemma
is to firstly approach Sadie informally, and chat with her
as to the reasons for Angel's score. If the explanation makes
sense, I would leave it at that. As we are told, Angel can
be difficult and to this extent may not have presented well.
If there is some sign of possible homophobia though on Sadie's
part, I would need to talk further!
Dr Anthony Gray
Director of Schools Education
Queensland Law Society
Your school is in desperate need of programs and education
on the issue of sexual orientation. If you are in Massachusetts,
the Department of Educations has excellent people and programs
to help. There is a Safe Schools for Gay and Lesbian Students
Grant available to help set up programs of support for your
GLB population. Other schools now have grants to mentor schools
that are currently in need of such programs.
Every time this young man is being harassed, his civil rights
are being violated. Without question there are many gay and
lesbian students in your school who are dealing with a hostile
environment every day and desperately need help. My school
was once where your school was, and with a lot of effort that
can change. It was a struggle here, but there has been a massive
change in attitude that has resulted in a much safer and more
comfortable school environment. It is an ongoing effort on
everyone's part to maintain that comfort level, but it can
be done! It begins with zero tolerance for harassment - harassment
of any kind, not just sexual orientation.
As for the question of whether this student should be a Peer
Mediator, that is a bit more confusing. While it is great
to have a diverse group of mediators, his sexual orientation
should not be held against him or be a deciding factor in
accepting him into the program. It is hard for me to understand
how someone you described as "argumentative, provocative
and sometimes outright obnoxious" could be a good candidate.
He may have to resolve some personal issues before he is ready
for your program.
I would think your discussion with the students who rate
candidates should be the same for him as it is for any other
candidate - what are his strengths and what are his weaknesses
- his sexual orientation is neither a strength nor a weakness.
I strongly urge you to seek help to strengthen the acceptance
level in your school environment, then when you choose a qualified
candidate who happens to be gay it will not be an issue for
your program. Good Luck!
My first reaction is that the appointment of new mediators
is a job which you have already delegated. If you were to
jump in now, the whole thing could fall apart, as those at
the 'top' may feel that they are not completely trusted to
make decision. You don't have to worry about when you leave
because you have left a very strong team in place who have
maturity and wisdom and who are in a position to pass this
If Angel's general attitude displays measurable degrees of
rebellion - you speak about him having been loud and obnoxious
- maybe he needs another year of maturing before being considered
again. Otherwise, you may find yourself with someone who may
'side' with pupils who are being disciplined, reinforcing
anarchistic attitudes and more of a problem may ensue. Sure,
Angel may be a great guy at spotting unfairness, that's fine
- but he needs to have the maturity to understand that where
there is conflict, there are two points of view and that the
needs of the establishment as a whole have to be taken into
account as well as the needs of the individual student.
With regard to sexuality, the main problem here would be
that it has been exposed. Most heterosexual people don't find
it necessary to tell others about their sexual orientation.
It just isn't an issue. Where people are overt about their
sexuality, there is often almost an evangelistic zeal about
it. What Angel decides to do in private is his choice, but
it would not be good to recommend a lifestyle to others (remembering
that we are talking about schoolchildren here) that has dangerous
health risks. This type of decision should never be taken
until people are able to make an informed choice. Not only
this, but human sexuality is not fixed until around age 20,
so it would be wrong for anyone to be pressured in any direction.
If Angel is very outspoken, people may feel that there is
a danger that he may use his position on the mediation service
to 'evangelize' about his lifestyle.
Also, while we must never sit in judgment on people, it is
well to pay due regard to research which undisputedly shows
that health and happiness is most prevalent in long term heterosexual
relationships and most of all within marriage and that this
should be the model which is taught throughout school. Those
who choose to live outside this pattern are free to do so
and we remain their friends.
Devon, United Kingdom
I found the report of the dilemma over the student ratings
of Angel as a potential dilemma fascinating. The coordinator
had the following questions:
"Should I intervene on Angel's behalf, directly questioning
my student mediators regarding whether Angel's sexuality affected
their decision? Should I speak with Sadie first in private?
Or should I speak with Angel first, and ask him if I can speak
publicly about his sexuality?"
I think you should talk with Angel first about pursuing the
matter. Whether to speak publicly about his sexual orientation
is one question, but I think it is important to talk with
him about whether he wants you to pursue the matter at all
with respect to him. If he does not want you to pursue it
with respect to him, for whatever reason, I believe that should
On the other hand, you have identified a probable continuing
flaw in the program itself. In the high school peer program
that I was involved in starting, we set out to have representation
among the mediators of all elements in the school, a kind
of representative pool. I believe that is important at your
school, too, and should include students who are different
in various ways, including sexual orientation, in trouble
kids, and disabilities.
Assuming that Angel either says it is all right to talk about
his orientation or wants you to pursue his situation with
the student mediators, including perhaps the factors he has
talked with you about in the past such as family situation,
then talk privately with those who evaluated him, sharing
your own evaluation, and exploring why there was such a discrepancy
among the evaluators. That might lead to discussing the matter
of Angel's sexual orientation but might bring out other factors
that you are unaware of.
Depending on what comes out of those discussions, there might
need to be discussions then among the mediators as a group,
and the shape of those discussions would, I believe, be revealed
in the private ones. There are some online resources you might
find it useful to consult: http://sunsite.unc.edu/gaylaw
and also www.cwsl.edu/aalsqueer
I believe that it is important to initiate these discussions
despite your pending leave of absence. If you don't, when
you return you will not fully understand what happened and
know to what extent your suspicions about the basis of the
decisions are sound. Most important from the moral dimension,
you will not have empowered Angel with respect to what may
be a very important matter in his life. Your sensitivity to
him is impressive and seems to me very important to him.
Grayfred B. Gray,
Associate Professor Emeritus
University of Tennessee College of Law
Knoxville, TN 37919-8726 USA
I think that paragraph six says a great deal about his ability
to be an effective mediator. Any student who is "argumentative,
provocative, and outright obnoxious" should rightly score
low on his/her qualifications to become a mediator. Don't
let the fact of this student's sexuality become a "red
herring". If this student was not gay, would you have
any doubts if he should be a mediator?
Leominster, MA, USA
As I read about the situation your described at your school,
I have the following comments and thoughts:
1) What is the scoring of students based on?
2) Many of us working with students in peer mediation programs
have experienced the transformation in attitudes, skills and
behavior many have made as a result of the training. Once
a student is trained it is important that all students model
principals of respectful communication in order to remain
in the program.
3) What are Angel's goals and expectation for wanting to
be a mediator?
4) When the group meets to discuss potential candidates,
it would seem valuable to have a discussion about the advantages
and challenges of including Angel as a mediator. This models
and practices critical thinking and consequential thinking
skills assisting the group to better understand a decision
Jean A Sidwell, Principal
Mediator, Trainer, Facilitator
Monterey, CA 93940 USA
I think that you might want to talk to Sadie about the decision
and how it was made but if you trust Sadie, then you need
to demonstrate that trust.
Boston, MA, USA
Prior to including him in the program I would have a conference
with both Angel and Sadie to review the situation. Angel would
have to assure me that he would have to conduct himself accordingly
regarding his sexuality so it wouldn't be a distraction to
our program. I would ask Sadie about his score, and find out
her reasoning .After this conference I would meet with the
entire program to review my decision.
I would be in favor of including Angel in the program for
the following reasons.
1. He is qualified and possesses the necessary life skills
to be in the program.
2. Mediators selection is based on a cross-section of the
student body. He would offer an added perspective. Angel,
would represent students with alternative life styles who
previously wouldn't participate in the program and now will
3. The program would prove that the school wasn't displaying
prejudice against students with alternative life styles and
would attract future students in this position to contribute
to the program.
Guidance Counselor/Peer Mediation Coordinator
Comprehensive Grammar School
Methuen, MA, USA
Dear Fellow Mediation Coordinator,
While I am new to the mediation field, I have worked with
families and children for 20 years. I have a similar situation,
whereby a professed gay student wanted to be a new mediator
in our program. I selected the candidates based on teacher
referrals and interviews. Yes, I wanted the mediators to represent
all factions of the student body, but what kept me from selecting
him were qualities similar to the ones you mention about your
student. "In your face, slightly obnoxious, argumentative,
and provocative" are not qualities I seek in someone
undertaking conflict resolution. I feel for your dilemma,
but you cannot solve a school-wide diversity problem alone-and
certainly with a mediator who might not show the leadership
which we want these kids to show-a role model. Of course,
being out on maternity leave adds another layer and naturally
you would be worried about the stability of your program.
Good luck with everything and let us know what you decided.
Quincy, MA, USA