CHATHAM COUNTY, Ga. (WTOC) - Misunderstandings can lead to much bigger problems in high schools, but in local public schools, kids are learning to talk through disagreements before they escalate into confrontations.
“For further altercations, you will agree to talk to one another first instead of going off of people outside of the situation."
Students at several area schools are learning from experience that communication is the key to conflict resolution.
“I guess next time, I could just come to her about it.”
A peer mediation program allows students to discuss their issues - with other students who are trained as mediators - often making talk the best action to avoiding violence in schools.
“Most of the time, they come to an agreement that, ‘okay, I had a part in this and you also had a part, so there’s no need to have tension,’ or, ‘there’s no need to fight or anything like that,” said student mediator, Brittany Brown, Woodville Tompkins.
The program is a partnership between the Savannah-Chatham Public School System and the Mediation Center of the Coastal Empire, but the kids involved are the key to success.
“Most students my age don’t feel comfortable talking about their problems to an adult, mostly because we think you won’t understand or you’ll judge us,” said student mediator, Randall Jenkins, Woodville Tompkins.
“One-hundred percent of our stories are success stories with peer mediation. It’s a wonderful program we have here at Woodville Tompkins,” said Annabella Irizarry, Woodville Tompkins, Peer Mediation Coordinator.
Mediators are trained to keep the sessions confidential and non-judgmental, and they do not have the authority to hand out punishment, but are required to report instances involving drugs or weapons to school administrators.
“If you know you can work out a conflict to talk to a person and it won’t affect you or how people view you, then I feel that’s the main reason they come in."
In doing so, they can make their school safer and friendlier.
“I feel very confident we are making a difference in the schools because we hear it from not only the students, but from the coordinators and from the principals and even the parents," said Dr. Chiquetta Thompson, Medication Center, Peer Mediation Associate.
“My goal for this program would be that every student at every school would become a peer mediator, because that would lessen the conflict all around the school.”
The Peer Mediation Program is offered in 17 middle and high schools in Chatham County. New student mediators are trained at the beginning of every school year.