Students learn how to help dial down disputes

first_img AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MORESanta Anita opens winter meet Saturday with loaded card And in Hovey’s case – learning to empathize with those excluded. “I feel upset,” he told other students about being left out. The 13-year-old later said he will remember the experience when he helps others faced with such problems. He wants to be the mediator between the target and the bully and to help both find common ground on the playground. It’s all part of the peer-mediation program that began six years ago at Placerita Junior High, where selected students are on call throughout the day as referees in peer conflict. Problems range from misunderstandings to intimidation and bullying. Referrals come from other students, administrators and teachers. Mediators listen to both sides and then help plan out solutions to resolve the issues. Sometimes the parties agree just to drop a dispute. Other times they decide never to talk again. STEVENSON RANCH – Seventh-grader Mark Hovey stood in the “loser corner” and stared at the floor until he was joined by other castoffs. The somber bunch watched as others in the room chatted it up and loudly talked about their own popularity. It was a lesson in exclusion, part of peer-mediation training Tuesday for about 125 middle school students from three local school districts who want to help others solve conflicts at school. Students convened at West Ranch High School for the half-day exercises in problem-solving techniques, communication and anger control. So far, student mediators have handled 60 cases, with only two situations requiring another round of talks, said Leah Summers, Placerita counselor. Summers said it helps to have students instead of adults as mediators because when the kids sit down at the table, they listen well to one another and follow through with their resolutions. “Amazingly, they stick to it,” she said. “I think it’s because, for the first time, someone sat down and listened to either one – the bully or the target.” On Tuesday, 13-year-old Amanda Eyrich and a handful of other peer mediators from Placerita taught the ropes to students from the William S. Hart Union High School District, Castaic Union School District and Fillmore Unified School District. Eyrich said the main problems are “boy stuff and girl drama.” She said problems usually start with boyfriend “stealing” or name-calling and sometimes escalate. “They can start as tiny things and end up as big problems,” she said. Jon Curwen, former Sierra Vista Junior High School principal, spearheaded peer mediation in the Hart district years ago and gave students pointers to help shape their skills, such as watching for little agreements during the mediations and using the word “agreement” often to help both parties shed their anger. Kathryn Vargas, 13, sees girls at school get angry at one another. Though she has never seen these quarrels escalate to brawls, the girls make their hostility clear, she said. “I see girls get mad at each other,” she said. “Girls stare and make faces, but they never fist-fight, probably because they don’t want to get in trouble.” Vargas said the communication skills she learned on Tuesday should help some of her peers at school. Sue Doyle, (661) 257-5254 sue.d[email protected] 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!last_img read more