Since 2007, Mediation services have been provided to employees of Cambridge Public School District, students, and their families. Mediation is voluntary. Parties who agree to participate in mediation can leave at any point that they feel the process is not working for them. It is 100% confidential unless there is a threat to self or others. Mediation is non-judgemental, meaning that the mediators work equally for both parties. It is also self-directed so that the parties themselves are responsible for working with the mediators to find a solution that works for them. Mediators are not allowed to give advise. Finally, mediation is future oriented – focused on establishing a written agreement that will address how parties will conduct themselves after the mediation is over.
Each party is interviewed individually before entering into the process. If there is bullying, harassment, or dating violence involved, the case will be referred to the appropriate resource to address that issue. The co-mediation model is used therefore there are 4 people in the room during the process. When mediation is provided for two adults, a volunteer from the Harvard Mediation Program co-facilitates with Chandra Banks, the CPSD Conflict Mediator.
Since 2006 there have been over 65 adult conflicts referred to mediation and since 2007, when the students began mediating conflicts in the 6-12th grades there have been well over 330 student conflicts referred. 135 students have been trained to become mediators and the program becomes more popular every year. The number of self referrals from students increases yearly in great part due to collaboration with STARS (Students Teaching & Advocating Respect) program and their highlighting the mediation program during their Violence Prevention Week Assembly.
Some typical comments from students...
"This school would be a hot mess if we didn't have mediation."
"Mediation has definitely stopped a few fights that would have happened."
"I liked that! How can I become a mediator?"
And from an elementary school principal: "I had always tried to mediate conflicts between staff for between staff and parents myself, and I am so happy to know that we have person in the district who is really objective to call on when these problems arise. I do my best, but to be honest, my role as the principal makes it impossible for me to be seen as objective. Having a professional Mediator available to talk to people who need to work effectively together helps me provide a better service to staff and families."