ADR -- Facilitating Conflict Between Children: Peer (School) mediation programs
Perspective of Media Source: CNN
Before the shootings at Columbine High School, many parents simply thought of childhood and adolescent bullying as simply a rite of passage, a natural part of growing up, rather than something to be alarmed at. However, according to the popular online media source, CNN.com, an informational news website, President Clinton echoed teachers and therapists that although "we don't know all the facts about what happened in Littleton, but one of the things that have come out of this that's really made an impression on me is that the young men who were involved in this horrible act apparently felt that they were subject to ridicule and ostracism and they were kind of social outcasts at the school. But their reaction to it was to find someone else to look down on." (CNN.com, 1999)
The media source stresses mediation and perhaps peer ADR mediation could have helped. It suggests such mediation should intervene in situations of schoolyard as well as formal settings before a judge in a courtroom. "The students, many of whom worked in the school's conflict resolution program, touted the benefits of peer mediation as a way for people to work out their differences in a respectful atmosphere." (CNN.com, 1999) In other words, although it is no panacea, when properly supervised, and conducted by trained facilitators, proper peer mediation, with an emphasis on alternative dispute resolution, can make childhood a less painful process.
However, the article does not discuss one of the most critical elements of mediation, namely the existence of impartial third party facilitator. Clearly, these boys felt oppressed by their system to the point where they did not believe such impartiality could exist. The president, the peer mediators and students he talked to, nor the teachers could not detail how such impartial facilitators might be derived or trained in a school system the boys saw as hostile and alien.
Teachers, because they often know the students involved in dispute so well, or at very least student reputations even in larger school districts hardly could hardly be characterized as impartial, and impartiality is a key part of ADR. The use of peers might be even more problematic, for no matter how well trained in the facilitation process they are still interested parties, as they are members of the same community as those whom they facilitate. Of course, the ideal solution would be to bring in out-of-school, trained ADR facilitators to mediate between conflicted teens and children, but in a financially strapped school system this might prove problematic.
ADR Perspective of Journal Article from Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology
The journal article, "Evaluation of the first three years of the Fast Track prevention trial with children at high risk for adolescent conduct problems," also addresses the seriousness of childhood bullying and the need to adopt effective mediation techniques to stymie its violent consequence. Fast Track is a form of ADR, and this article comes from the point-of-view of those attempting to ameliorate the problems of those whom are doing the bullying with mediation training, rather than focusing on those victims of the aftermath of bullying, as does the CNN.com media source perspective. The journal article states that it will examine "evidence for the effectiveness of an early preventive intervention designed to deflect young children with a profile of early starting disruptive behavior from a developmental trajectory of serious antisocial behavior. Outcomes at the end of the first three years of this large-scale, federally funded intervention are described in terms of multiple indicators of prevention success for this randomized, community-based intervention trial." (1) The article is interesting to contrapose with Clinton's immediate reaction to the tragedy of Columbine, as the study was the result, in part, of a desire upon the government to prevent such occurances from transpiring again in high schools across the country.
The article from a peer-reviewed rather than a popular source, unlike CNN.com, does not take a simply positive point-of-view to mediation. Unlike the media source, which suggests that mediation is a learned rather than a natural skill, the article stresses that those in need of mediation skills are not necessarily the entire school population. "There have been two distinctly different approaches to preventing conduct problems in childhood. The universal approach (Mrazek & Haggerty, 1994) is directed at a total population, typically a school or grade level within a school, with the aim of reducing the incidence of conduct disorders in that population." (1)
But his article clearly favors the non-total curriculum approach, and instead stresses the need to focus on specific populations "almost half of all adolescent crime is committed by about 6% of the general population (Wolfgang, Figlio, & Sellin, 1972), a subset of youth called early starters, who exhibit conduct problems early in their development and persist across the life-course (Patterson, Reid, & Dishion, 1992)." By tareting these offenders, the article suggests, violence can more easily be presented in actuality, rather than simply generate more rhetoric. Mediation and conflict resolution strategies must focus on at-risk personalities within the population, and teaching ways for such at-risk students to deal with their antisocial impulses.
Comparision of Journal and Media Source
While the popular media source tends to stress that mediation between independent facilitators and conflicted parties can have good consequences for schools and society overall, the journal article uses statistical evidence to show that a targeted population is most at risk for falling into violent behavior. Rather than using words and broad labels such as "moral values" to suggest mediation and communication in the schools are vaguely positive things, the journal article suggests that although conventional and contemporary methods are simply not working in terms of dealing with conflict, this does not all mean that all students are equally at risk for criminality and violence.
The journal, stresses that a predisposition to violent behavior is not simply a symptom of being ostracized or angry. Effective conflict resolution requires level of trust the participants may not have the cognitive skills to bestow upon others for a variety of reasons. "According to this perspective, child neuropsychological deficits and temperamental difficulty from birth can lead to excessive impulsivity and problems with emotional control during the preschool years." (2) The article does not deny the positive effects of mediation. "The goal of the Fast Track Program was to reduce long-term conduct problems by means of interventions that addressed significant mediators of this pathogenic process. In the first report of the impact of the intervention (CPPRG, 1999), significant effects on most of the mediators of this development were realized." But this was a result of a mediation program that targeted at-risk, impulsive and potentially violent youths whom were idenitified early on in their academic careers.
Another problem of the use of mediation training and the use of ADR itself in schools, is that -- like the external cues that show a potential predisposition to violence and the positive or beneificial aspects of mediating students -- all such observed gagues of success are subjective. "Grossman and colleagues reported significant reductions in aggression as reported by observers, but not teachers or parents. Greenberg, Kusche, Cook, and Quamma (1995) found one-year follow-up improvements in self-reported conduct problems and teacher ratings of adaptive behavior; these improvements were sustained at two-year follow-up." (1) Subjectivity was reduced in the study by the inclusion of a control group, although this raises a potentially ethically questionable issue, in terms of denying members of the at-risk population crucial life skills with which to deal with conflict. (4)
Both article and media source are fairly silent on exactly how the mediation process is to occur -- again, if peers or teachers can be objective in terms of mediating conflict, and if the strategies that are…