PROBLEMS AT SCHOOL?
Our schools are wonderful. They also have some problems. At Jefferson County Mediation Services (JCMS), one of the problems that we see frequently is conflict among students.
In earlier times, the teacher would separate the combatants (usually boys) and punish them, then send them home, where their parents would discipline them again. Now, the teachers aren’t allowed to touch the kids, so they call the police, the kids are booked for assault, and they get fed into the judicial system. This doesn’t do much good for the kids, the schools, or the judicial system, and attaching the blame to one child or the other doesn’t solve the problem, but it’s how things are done now.
Conflict among girls is a greater problem than it used to be, and the use of social media can fuel the flames. We have seen a variety of cases at JCMS, but a common issue involves one girl who starts dating the other girl’s ex-boyfriend. The girls will drag all their friends into one camp or the other, and they all start trashing each other on various internet sites, such as Facebook. This can include lies, gossip, and insults, and can escalate to threats of physical injury or death. They sometimes harass each other at home, driving by and shouting insults or throwing garbage. At school, they may yell at each other, slam each other into lockers, pull hair, scratch, kick and punch. This behavior is disruptive, to say the least, and may pose a danger to other students, teachers and staff.
Parents may become concerned about threats, and go to court for a protection order. This can mean that one student or the other must leave the school. Police and judges really don’t want to see children get in legal trouble, but they may not have a good alternative.
We also see some gang activity in the schools. This is usually between students of different races or cultures, and may involve both boys and girls. Maybe they see themselves as potential victims, and join together for protection, or perhaps they see a new group moving into “their” territory, and want to keep that group out. People have always had a tendency to see themselves as “us” and others as “them” – that’s normal. Their culture gives them an identity, and they have their own customs and standards of acceptable behavior. This can be a very positive, unifying force in a society. It becomes a problem when there is violence between two groups. On a larger scale, it leads to wars.
With help from trained, neutral people (mediators), people can usually find some kind of common ground, and can then go on to create ways to live side by side without violence. Sometimes kids realize that they have gotten in way over their heads, and just need a way to back down without losing face. Perhaps they have come to realize that they had a part in creating the hostility, but don’t know how to get out of the situation. This is the kind of help we offer.
JCMS handles cases involving many kinds of conflicts between students, teachers, parents, administrators and other school staff. We can help children and adults and ease the burden on schools. Our results are impressive: when parties come to the mediation table, they usually resolve their differences (about 80% success rate).
Our experienced school mediators are trained in family and school issues, and they enjoy working on these cases. They love to see children succeed, and they have the skills, talent and time to help people solve problems among themselves.
It is in everyone’s interest to help schools do their job well and safely, and to relieve them of problems they are not equipped to handle. If you are a parent, teacher, administrator, or School Resource Officer, call JCMS at 303-271-5060. If it involves conflict, we can help!