Byline: Michelle Martin Daily Herald Staff Writer
Accusations of name-calling and line-cutting at Roslyn Road School in Barrington haven't generated the same cries of "I'm telling the teacher!" this year.
Instead, students can say, "Let's find a peer mediator."
Nearly 40 Roslyn Road fourth- and fifth-graders served in that role since February, helping students settle their own differences.
Adults say the program should teach students how to resolve conflicts peacefully, without resorting to the kind of violence that erupted at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colo., in April.
Children say the program gives them a way to stop quarrels without having anyone get in trouble.
The mechanism is simple:
When two students have a conflict over a ball, for example, they can agree to go to peer mediators.
The mediators worked in teams of two, usually some combination of a boy and a girl and a fourth-grader and a fifth-grader. For the last month of school, third-grade mediators-in-training have looked on.
The mediators are posted on the playground at lunch and at recess, decked out in black-and-white striped referee shirts and carrying pink clipboards.
Once students approach them, the mediators lay down the ground rules: No interruptions and no put-downs.
Then the mediators lead the students who are quarreling through a script, asking for both sides of the story, what each student could have done differently, and what an acceptable solution would be.
Once they come to a solution, the students must sign their names to it and shake hands.
For the most part, it works, said fifth-grade mediator Robert Mays.
"Usually the kids who come to us are friends, so they want to solve the problem," said Mays, 11. "And they will open up to us more than they will open up to a teacher."
Fourth-grader Kaitlyn Strand, 10, agreed students are more comfortable sharing problems with classmates than they are with teachers, even though teachers review reports of all peer mediation sessions.
But Strand said that in the four months the program has been in effect, the need for it has declined.
"More people are solving their own problems," she said. "And there's a lot less conflicts."
The mediators have not been able to help everyone who comes to them find a way to resolve their conflicts. Mays said that usually happens when one of the quarreling parties doesn't really want to go to a peer mediator in the first place. …