When fights broke out between girls at a Maryland alternative school, Howard Community College‘s conflict resolution counselors mediated the dispute and trained school staff in mediation techniques, reports the Baltimore Sun. The fighting stopped at Homewood Center and suspensions, behavior referrals and unexcused absences went down.
The Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center has been dealing with conflict in the Howard community for the past 22 years, including boundary disputes between neighbors, anger-management issues of college athletes and disagreements among teacher groups.
The mediation center also is working with high schools to improve detention programs.
HCC took over the Mediation and Conflict Resolution Center in 2001, 11 years after it began as a grassroots organization. Students can earn an associate degree in conflict resolution and transfer to Salisbury University, which also has a Center for Conflict Resolution. The center also employs 150 non-student volunteers, who take at least 40 hours of mediation training at the college.
. . . the center uses methods derived from the Bethlehem, Pa.-based International Institute for Restorative Practices, which encourages authority figures — teachers, supervisors and law enforcement — to involve their communities in creating solutions to problems rather than resorting to punitive measures.
“Restorative work is about if an incident has happened, it’s helping people, especially juveniles, to recognize that the harm they caused has an effect on people,” said (director Kathryn) Rockefeller.
When Homewood Center students felt the peace was threatened, they told the assistant principal they needed to “circle up again,” said Principal Tina Maddox. “That was a sign that … it was producing problem-solving skills, conflict resolution that our students had not normally experienced.”