Conflict Resolution in America’s Schools - Dispute Resolution Journal - Vol. 52, No. 1
Kay O. Wilburn is adjunct professor of business law at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB). She has served as past vice-chairperson of the Alabama State Bar Committee on Alternative Methods of Dispute Resolution and past chairperson of the ADR Task Force subcommittee on Mediation Model. She is an AAAtrained mediator and has been appointed to the Violence Prevention Consortium of the Alabama Center for Law and Civic Education. She initiated a conflict resolution pilot program for urban primary and secondary schools in collaboration with UAB’s School of Education.
Mary Lynn Bates is an attorney in private practice in Birmingham, Alabama. She previously served as assistant general counsel of Sonat Inc. and as vice president of Sonat Mobile Bay Inc. She has been trained as a mediator by the AAA and was instrumental in developing a conflict resolution pilot program for urban primary and secondary schools in collaboration with UAB’s School of Education. In addition, she has been a peer mediator trainer in various K-12 schools.
The authors are members of the UAB Violence Prevention Grant Steering Committee.
Originally from Dispute Resolution Journal
This country is currently experiencing a “violence epidemic,” say the authors, particularly among young people. Left unchecked, this wave of aggression could lead to even more disastrous consequences 10 or 20 years down the road when these adolescents become adults. One potential solution with a proven success rate is mediation at the elementary, middle and high schools levels, say Wilburn and Bates. Peer mediation programs enable disputants to vent frustration or anger in a controlled setting and “concentrate on identifying the problem instead of establishing blame or seeking revenge.” The students then formulate their own solution to the conflict.
Innumerable statistics pronounce this country is suffering a violence epidemic. Too often, the violence is being committed by children against children. According to the National Center for Health Statistics, shootings represent a leading cause of death for children under 19. James A. Fox, dean of the College of Criminal Justice at Northeastern University, states that murders committed by adolescents aged 14 to 17 have increased by 165% in the past decade and that the number will continue to rise dramatically as children grow into their teens. Fox predicts that unless measures are taken now, this country will experience a “blood bath in 10 years when all these kids grow up.”1