School mediation is a form of conflict resolution that focuses on disputes in and around an educational atmosphere. Mediation can allow an open and guided channel of communication for many different types of disputes, including student-student, student-parent, and student-faculty/staff issues. In an ideal situation, school mediation can defuse potentially destructive or dangerous situations using non-disciplinary tactics.
School conflicts can include anything from bullying to accusations of racism, often creating volatile and difficult situations. Adding to the tension, students may be liable to view faculty and administrative personnel as a subjective, uniform body that wields considerable power of the student and his or her future. School mediation, whether relying on adult, peer, or external mediators, can help place the issue in the hands of an objective third party that cannot easily be accused of taking sides. With a neutral third party in place, all participants in a conflict may be more willing to work out an agreement.
Peer mediation is a popular form of school mediation. This type of program uses students as mediators or co-mediators, since they may be in a better position to understand the pressure and issues surrounding a conflict. Peer mediators often go through training with licensed counselors or mediators to help prepare them for the many issues they can face. Good supervision is important to a successful peer mediation program; it is important to be sure that participating student mediators are assigned to situations in which they are truly neutral parties.
Some school mediation programs handle not only student disputes, but student-parent disputes related to school. Parents and students are often at loggerheads about a variety of issues, such as homework, friends, activities, behavior, and plans for the future. In some cases, the problems can become distracting for students, damaging their ability to work hard while in school because of trouble at home. Student-parent mediation can help broker solutions to school-related issues within families, and may use both an adult mediator and a peer mediator working as a team.
A school may hire an outside mediator if the institution is dealing with large-scale complaints from students, parents, or even the school workforce. This type of school mediation may be performed in situations where communications between all sides of the issue have broken down, and the ongoing situation is threatening the educational or physical safety of the school. Student walkouts and protests by parents, students, and staff may have the potential to reach a resolution with school mediation. Though mediation typically requires some concessions on both sides of the table, it can be the quickest way to restore safety and tranquility to a school environment.