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    City announces expansion of mediation in schools

    (10/12/2006) The session started with tears and anger, but by the time the mediation team at James Hillhouse High School worked its magic, the two teenaged girls had put aside their differences and were friends again.

    It was a peaceful outcome in a time when school violence across the country is ratcheting up.

    On Thursday, Oct. 12, 2006, 1:15 p.m. at James Hillhouse High School, students will talk about the importance of mediation services in diffusing conflicts that could leave to violence and the school system will announce an expansion of the program.

    The news conference will take place in the conference room of Andre Dupree, principal on special assignment at James Hillhouse, where a team of school resource officers, school security guards and school administrators mediate conflicts between students on a regular basis, sometimes even calling in parents to help broker resolutions.

    “We work hard to create a climate in our school where young people feel free to come up to us and talk about situations. Through mediation, we teach kids how to approach other students in a way that is nonthreatening,” Dupree said. “The mediation team consists of the school resource officer, the security personnel, school administrators, the students and sometimes parents. These teams meet on a daily basis, sometimes twice a day.”

    Superintendent of Schools Dr. Reginald Mayo said the school district is teaming up with Community Mediation, Inc. to provide expanded mediation throughout the school system. “We really think this model works. It’s proven here at James Hillhouse High School in diffusing conflicts before they hit the streets and result in violent acts. We’ve had great luck with it in other schools,” Dr. Mayo said.

    Community Mediation will provide staff development, training and other school-based services to the New Haven Public Schools’ Youth Development Coordinators (YDCs) during the 2006-07 school year in partnership with the Social Development department of NHPS. The staff development training and services will include a 16-hour mediation training; 10 hours of mediation apprenticeship for each youth development coordinator; and school-based professional assistance with school-related mediations and facilitations at all of the schools where the YDCs are assigned.

    Charles Pillsbury, Executive Director of Community Mediation, said mediation “is concerned not only about helping students resolve the current conflict, but also about giving young people skills to resolve conflicts going forward. These are problem solving skills they can use in school and in life. Mediation does not stop bullets, but it may stop a young person from picking up a gun or from pursuing further conflict.”

    Sgt. Ricardo Rodriguez, supervisor of youth oriented policing for New Haven police, said,

    “With violence involving our youth in New Haven and throughout the country increasing and with young people turning to handguns to solve their issues, the need for our children to communicate effectively is very important. Mediation has been a part of our School Resource Officer program from the start. Having individuals such as Officer Ponteau and Jones use their skills along with school administrators and security personnel to help children deal with their disputes and disagreements will benefit our children.”

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