School Mediator's Field Guide:
Prejudice, Sexual Harassment,
Large Groups and Other Daily Challenges
Peer Mediation in Schools
Welcome back to school, and to the September issue
(Volume III!) of The School Mediator.
We start off the year by exploring the issue of time
and peer mediation coordination. Please send along
your thoughts; we can all learn from your experience.
Wishing you the best, wherever you are,
Founder and Director
School Mediation Associates
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How much time is required to coordinate a peer
Well, that depends upon who you ask (and how much
money is in their budget!).
The overwhelming majority of peer mediation programs
are coordinated by teachers and counselors who do the
job in addition to their regular responsibilities. A
are coordinated by part-time and occasionally full-time
peer mediation coordinators (whose sole professional
responsibility is to coordinate the peer mediation program
in their schools).
But how much time is necessary?
The answer is more complicated than one might
and not surprisingly, particular to each school.
questions should be answered to determine the ideal:
1. What is the Character of the School?
· Size of the student body: The more
more conflicts will be referred to mediation.
· Age of the students: In general, middle
programs (serving young people ages 10-14) mediate the
highest number of cases. Elementary and high school
programs tend to mediate less often.
· School climate: If students feel safe,
engaged, they are less likely to become involved in
interpersonal conflicts, and this (happily) reduces a
program's case load.
· Administrative support: The more that
administrators support a program, the more cases they
will refer, and
the more time a coordinator will need.
· Additional stresses upon students: Do
students live in
poverty? In underserved communities? Do they contend
with an unhealthy pressure to over-achieve? Are there
racial, ethnic, class, or religious tensions? More stress
equals more conflict equals more cases.
· Cultural norms that have an impact upon students'
approach to conflict resolution: Consider culture in
the broadest sense, including ethnic norms but
also whether conflicts are generally public or private
affairs, whether students are willing to seek
Some schools clearly have a greater need for peer
mediation services than others. It is important to note,
however, that contrary to the general "wisdom," schools
located in inner cities do not necessarily have a greater
need for peer mediation than suburban schools. Nor do
schools serving primarily young people of color have
higher case loads than schools serving primarily
2. How Broad is the Scope of the Peer Mediation
I tend to be rather restrictive and include as
coordinators' duties only work related to training
mediators, generating and processing referrals, and
mediating and following-up on conflicts.
But I have known peer mediation coordinators who teach
classes on conflict resolution, conduct bullying education
seminars, consult with teachers to improve their
classroom management skills, work with mediators to
mentor younger students, and even serve as de facto
"assistant deans of student affairs."
This is all wonderful work, to be sure. To my way of
thinking, however, individuals doing this work would more
accurately be referred to as school-based conflict
resolution specialists, not peer mediation coordinators.
(Although coordinating a peer mediation program could
be one responsibility of the former.)
3. How Will Peer Mediation-Related Responsibilities
· Will the coordinator conduct private "intake
with each party prior to scheduling a session (essential
to running a good program in my opinion, but not every
coordinator does it)?
· Will she remain in the room during
· Will she conduct follow-up interviews with
· Is she conducting her own training, or using
· What kind of data will she track?
· How often will she meet with mediators for
training and case evaluation?
There is quite a bit of latitude here, and excellent
coordinators approach their responsibilities differently;
where one might invest four hours of time per case,
another might invest only two.
How much time is required to coordinate a peer mediation
program? The only honest answer is, it
the questions above, however, you can estimate the
work load of a peer mediation coordinator in a particular
In School Mediation Associates' generic contract, we
request that coordinators have the flexibility to devote
a minimum of 1.5 hours on any given day to the program.
On some days, it will require less time than that. On
others, especially if they oversee a peak performing
program, it will require much more.
Send us your thoughts...
|Do You Have The Time?
Take ten minutes to help us explore and understand
the issue of time and peer mediation coordination.
Copy the questions below and email your response back
to us (if you can't copy them, number your responses to
match the questions). Or, if you find the questions too
your thoughts in whatever form feels right to you. I'll
post the highlights next month. Thanks.
1. Characteristic of your school:
Level (elementary, middle, high, other):
Number of students :
2. Location of your school by country and
3. How would you characterize the level of
administrative support for peer mediation (high, medium,
4. What is your formal title (teacher, counselor,
peer mediation coordinator, etc.)?
5. What do you do on an average day in
to coordinating the peer mediation program?
6. How many cases does your peer mediation
program mediate each year?
7. How many hours during school do you
to peer mediation per week?
8. How many hours outside of school do
devote to peer mediation per week?
9. Do other adults assist you with program
coordination? How do they help (conduct intake
interviews, supervise sessions, oversee outreach,
10. How are you compensated for coordinating
peer mediation program? (i.e. no compensation, given
time during the day, given a lighter class load, given peer
mediation instead of another contractual "duty", given a
stipend, paid a salary, etc.)?
11. Aside from the monetary compensation (if
receive it), what motivates you to do this work?
12. How much time would you estimate you
devote to each case on average (include intake,
selecting mediators, supervising the session, following-up
with parties, etc)?
13. Estimate the percentage of time that you
devote to actual case work (taking referrals, supervising
sessions, following up with parties, etc.) vs. outreach,
training, other conflict resolution activities, etc.?
14. What do you estimate would be the ideal
amount of time in which to coordinate a peer mediation
program in your school (1 hour per day, 3 hours
15. What would be your initial priorities if you
more time to devote to peer mediation?
For almost twenty years, School Mediation Associates
has been devoted to the application and promotion of
mediation in schools. SMA's mission is to transform
schools into safer, more caring, and more effective
institutions. Our books and training programs have been utilized by tens
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