The School Mediator
Peer Mediation Insights From the Desk of Richard Cohen Vol. III, 9/03

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About Time

Do You Have The Time?

About Us

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The School Mediator's Field Guide:
Prejudice, Sexual Harassment, Large Groups and Other Daily Challenges
by Richard Cohen
more info

Students Resolving Conflict:
Peer Mediation in Schools

by Richard Cohen
more info

Welcome back to school, and to the September issue (Volume III!) of The School Mediator.

We start off the year by exploring the issue of time and peer mediation coordination. Please send along your thoughts; we can all learn from your experience.

Wishing you the best, wherever you are,

Richard Cohen
Founder and Director
School Mediation Associates

PS: If you received this free newsletter directly from us, you are already on our subscriber list. If a colleague forwarded it to you, you can easily subscribe by sending your email address to

About Time

How much time is required to coordinate a peer mediation program?

Well, that depends upon who you ask (and how much money is in their budget!).

The overwhelming majority of peer mediation programs are coordinated by teachers and counselors who do the job in addition to their regular responsibilities. A handful are coordinated by part-time and occasionally full-time peer mediation coordinators (whose sole professional responsibility is to coordinate the peer mediation program in their schools).

But how much time is necessary?

The answer is more complicated than one might think, and not surprisingly, particular to each school. Three questions should be answered to determine the ideal:

1. What is the Character of the School?

Size of the student body: The more students, the more conflicts will be referred to mediation.

Age of the students: In general, middle school programs (serving young people ages 10-14) mediate the highest number of cases. Elementary and high school programs tend to mediate less often.

School climate: If students feel safe, supported, and engaged, they are less likely to become involved in interpersonal conflicts, and this (happily) reduces a program's case load.

Administrative support: The more that administrators support a program, the more cases they will refer, and the more time a coordinator will need.

Additional stresses upon students: Do students live in poverty? In underserved communities? Do they contend with an unhealthy pressure to over-achieve? Are there racial, ethnic, class, or religious tensions? More stress equals more conflict equals more cases.

Cultural norms that have an impact upon students' approach to conflict resolution: Consider culture in the broadest sense, including ethnic norms but also whether conflicts are generally public or private affairs, whether students are willing to seek assistance, etc.

Some schools clearly have a greater need for peer mediation services than others. It is important to note, however, that contrary to the general "wisdom," schools located in inner cities do not necessarily have a greater need for peer mediation than suburban schools. Nor do schools serving primarily young people of color have higher case loads than schools serving primarily Caucasian students.

2. How Broad is the Scope of the Peer Mediation Coordinator's Responsibilities?
I tend to be rather restrictive and include as coordinators' duties only work related to training mediators, generating and processing referrals, and mediating and following-up on conflicts.

But I have known peer mediation coordinators who teach classes on conflict resolution, conduct bullying education seminars, consult with teachers to improve their classroom management skills, work with mediators to mentor younger students, and even serve as de facto "assistant deans of student affairs."

This is all wonderful work, to be sure. To my way of thinking, however, individuals doing this work would more accurately be referred to as school-based conflict resolution specialists, not peer mediation coordinators. (Although coordinating a peer mediation program could be one responsibility of the former.)

3. How Will Peer Mediation-Related Responsibilities be Defined?

Will the coordinator conduct private "intake interviews" with each party prior to scheduling a session (essential to running a good program in my opinion, but not every coordinator does it)?
Will she remain in the room during sessions?
Will she conduct follow-up interviews with each party?
Is she conducting her own training, or using outside contractors?
What kind of data will she track?
How often will she meet with mediators for on-going training and case evaluation?

There is quite a bit of latitude here, and excellent coordinators approach their responsibilities differently; where one might invest four hours of time per case, another might invest only two.

How much time is required to coordinate a peer mediation program? The only honest answer is, it depends. After considering the questions above, however, you can estimate the work load of a peer mediation coordinator in a particular school.

In School Mediation Associates' generic contract, we request that coordinators have the flexibility to devote a minimum of 1.5 hours on any given day to the program. On some days, it will require less time than that. On others, especially if they oversee a peak performing program, it will require much more.

Send us your thoughts...

Do You Have The Time?

Take ten minutes to help us explore and understand the issue of time and peer mediation coordination.

Copy the questions below and email your response back to us (if you can't copy them, number your responses to match the questions). Or, if you find the questions too limiting, send your thoughts in whatever form feels right to you. I'll post the highlights next month. Thanks.

1. Characteristic of your school:
Level (elementary, middle, high, other):
Number of students :

2. Location of your school by country and state?

3. How would you characterize the level of administrative support for peer mediation (high, medium, low, non-existent)?

4. What is your formal title (teacher, counselor, peer mediation coordinator, etc.)?

5. What do you do on an average day in addition to coordinating the peer mediation program?

6. How many cases does your peer mediation program mediate each year?

7. How many hours during school do you devote to peer mediation per week?

8. How many hours outside of school do you devote to peer mediation per week?

9. Do other adults assist you with program coordination? How do they help (conduct intake interviews, supervise sessions, oversee outreach, training, etc.)?

10. How are you compensated for coordinating the peer mediation program? (i.e. no compensation, given time during the day, given a lighter class load, given peer mediation instead of another contractual "duty", given a stipend, paid a salary, etc.)?

11. Aside from the monetary compensation (if you receive it), what motivates you to do this work?

12. How much time would you estimate you devote to each case on average (include intake, selecting mediators, supervising the session, following-up with parties, etc)?

13. Estimate the percentage of time that you devote to actual case work (taking referrals, supervising sessions, following up with parties, etc.) vs. outreach, training, other conflict resolution activities, etc.?

14. What do you estimate would be the ideal amount of time in which to coordinate a peer mediation program in your school (1 hour per day, 3 hours per day, full-time, etc.)?

15. What would be your initial priorities if you had more time to devote to peer mediation?

About Us

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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Watertown, MA 02472 USA

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