Education

High school mediation program helps students "work things out"

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NEW BRUNSWICK - According to NBHS Dean of Students Christopher Tullo, mediation helps students handle any problem they may have encounter with others in a mature way.

Mediation is an opportunity for teens to discuss their issues in a non-confrontational matter with an administrator present. With school violence and cyberbullying making major headlines daily, Tullo says the program seeks to give students the skills to “work things out” and to not let a grievance fester.

Tullo estimates that the program has an 85 percent success rate. The protocol is that students who have a conflict are taken to the dean’s office and placed in separate rooms. They are offered ample opportunity to cool down and talk with Tullo about the pressing issue.

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Tullo’s objective is to first understand the nature of the problem and then he counsels the students to devise a solution. He discusses what the students have offered as a solution individually, and once both parties agree, he brings them together and they talk face-to-face in front of an administrator.

Student mediation is 100 percent voluntary at New Brunswick High School.

Students approach Tullo and request help. According to the dean, students come by because they are eager to  address the issue before it escalates.

Sometimes a student mediation may be conducted through an investigation; however, if a student is not cooperative or responsive, a parent or guardian may be contacted. The school will not force the students to talk and share, but most of the time, Tullo reports, they are willing to participate in the process.

When calling a parent or guardian, the goal is to bring them in for a meeting with the student and an administrator.

Student mediation is successful because of the direct communication. Tullo sees long-term benefits for this process. “Getting students to fix their problems helps them later on in multiple settings such as the workforce or in college," he said.

Tullo is proud of the program. He said he often brings in other schools resources - guidance counselors, school-based counseling support, and administrators - to help resolve the conflict as quickly as possible.

Daniela Lopez is a senior at New Brunswick High School

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