Delaware News

Hayes peer group steps in when students disagree

Peer Mediation Club's members learn how to settle differences


Delaware Hayes High School does not rely only on staff to resolve conflicts between students. Instead, trained students have an opportunity to help their peers sort things out.

Every year, the guidance counselor at Hayes selects 12 students for the Peer Mediation Club based on their applications.

Students are asked why they want to join, what problems they see in the school and solutions they have, and whether they've had mediation training in the past.

After students are selected, they take part in mediation training with the guidance counselor. The training involves helping students to brainstorm ways to solve problems that are not necessary school-related in nature.

They also are taught traditional means to end conflict, then practice those skills by role-playing mediation between students.

Guidance counselor Jennifer Pollard said she also shows students a video about bullying and gets them to think about how they can prevent such acts at Hayes.

"I encourage the students to think about ways to improve the school climate," she said. "We are also working on promoting our club throughout the school by putting articles in the school paper and school media."

The club is used on an as-needed basis, and students with issues are recommended to club members by teachers, staff or even the students themselves.

Students are never forced into meditation, but if they are open to sitting down with their peers, the club will send two representatives to conduct it.

There are no adults in the room -- just the two students with the conflict and two peer mediators. They work through the problem and agree on a solution that both students feel comfortable with, Pollard said.

She said it's not just a club, but a service students can provide to their school.

Pollard said every year is different in terms of how many conflicts the group attempts to resolve through peer mediation. Two years ago, there were 20 mediations; last year, there were only two, she said.

Pollard said Hayes has had a great success rate with mediation in her experience.

"In my seven years with the school, there was only one mediation we did that I can remember that was unsuccessful," she said.

In addition to conducting mediation between students, Pollard said the club members come up with great ways to resolve issues between staff and students.

"These kids really are my eyes and ears of the school," she said. "They are honest with me about how they see changes that can be made in the school and really have great ideas on how adults can handle their students better."

Many of the students selected to be in the club have career goals related to entering law school, education or the police academy.

"They are great kids and they really have an interest in helping people, which is why they're in this club," she said.