School-based peer mediation is most commonly used to help resolve issues that directly affect student relationships, such as:
- School rumors/ gossip
- Social networking and other Internet-based provocations
- Dissolution of friendships or romantic relationships
- Minor bullying/harassment
- Cheating on schoolwork
- Property theft
- Confrontations that result from differences in race, culture, sexuality, religion, status, etc.
Not all conflict cases are appropriate for peer mediation. Case types that should be immediately referred to school counselors, administration and/or outside authorities, as each individual school’s policies dictate, include:
- Drug abuse/possession
- Weapon use/possession
- Sexual, physical or emotional abuse/assault
- Suicide threats or attempts
- Any issue that might interfere with current or pending legal action or judicial rulings (such as restraining orders, etc.)
Additionally, if evidence or threats of abuse or any other indication of eminent danger to the safety of either participants or peer mediators emerges during the mediation session, students must be trained to immediately report such threats to the Program Coordinator or other designated school representative for proper handling. This important aspect of student safety is covered more in-depth in the Peer Mediators training curriculum.
A vast majority of successful peer mediation programs make a conscious effort to train a balanced, diverse group of peer mediators. Peer mediators should ideally represent the student body in terms of gender, race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, sexual orientation, academic standing and ability levels, so that all students feel comfortable, accepted and safe using the program.
There are a variety of ways in which peer mediators can be chosen: a) the student body nominates their peers, b) the faculty and staff nominate students, c) student volunteers are solicited/self-nominate, or d) some combination of the first three approaches. We recommend that a selection committee be used to handle recruitment and nominations of peer mediators. This selection committee might consist of current peer mediators or student leaders, teachers/faculty, administration, parents, and/or the program coordinator.
Once selected, peer mediators are trained in a core set of conflict resolution skills, such as active listening, neutrality and brainstorming, and given lots of interactive practice in the mediation process itself via conflict resolution role plays. It is suggested that a Junior High/Middle School Peer Mediation Program training should consist of 12-20 initial training hours at the beginning of the school year, and 12 or more continuing education hours throughout each academic year. After satisfactorily demonstrating competence in peer mediation skills and practices, students are then able to begin offering the services to the student body.
Programs such as peer mediation can provide students with opportunities to test the consequences of their own decisions as implemented in their school community. Some of the most commonly identified benefits of peer mediation at the school level are:
- The resolution of minor disputes that interfere with the education process.
- Peer mediators and students who participate in peer mediation programming have been shown to demonstrate improved self-esteem and improved positive status amongst their peer group, as well as improved academic confidence.
- Peer mediators develop communication and leadership skills, as well as practical life skills. They often carry these skill sets beyond the school doors and into their families and communities, as well, helping to resolve problems more effectively than before.
Perhaps the most beneficial aspect of Peer Mediation programming, however, is the individualized, empowering experience that it offers to each student who utilizes it to resolve a conflict. Students are empowered to resolve their conflicts independently and responsibly, without adult intervention, which is a significant milestone for youth development.
The PM Coordinator/Trainer sends a secure weblink invitation to the meeting. Students click on the link and enter a meeting ID number.
Students can participate in online activities (with their PC, Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android tablet or smartphone), (1) in order to practice their peer mediation skills or deliver online peer mediation services; and (2) under the direct supervision of their school’s peer mediation trainer.
There is no direct contact between OPMP team members and students. All students’ online activities are coordinated between OPMP and their school’s PM trainer/coordinator.
Any video produced during online activities with students for training purposes is under the direct supervision and control of their PM trainer.