A Talking Cure for Disruption in the Classroom
Fighting, bullying, and truancy are among problems faced by teachers in
classrooms across the nation. Maryland teachers and school
administrators are embracing conflict management tools designed to
engage students and address problems in the classroom before they
escalate into full-blown conflicts.
In collaboration with the Center
for Dispute Resolution (C-DRUM) at the University of Maryland Francis King
Carey School of Law, administrators, teachers, and students are
trained in innovative ways to resolve conflicts that may otherwise lead
to suspensions and other disciplinary measures. By supporting the use
of restorative practices and mediation that encourage talking out
problems, avoid blaming the offender, and ensure that those affected
can express their version of the story in a safe environment, C-DRUM is
helping schools significantly reduce office referrals and suspensions.
"Restorative practices provide alternatives to a strictly punitive
model of discipline. Students are given the opportunity to talk through
what's happened and to collaboratively come up with solutions," says
Barbara Sugarman Grochal, MBA, MAT, C-DRUM's director of schools
conflict resolution education.
C-DRUM supports a variety of restorative justice practices in its work
with 24 elementary, middle, and high schools across Maryland. Whether
in mediation or in a restorative circle process by involving all
parties -- offender and victim -- these tools allow individuals to move
beyond name-calling, harm, and guilt, says Grochal. "The offender has
the opportunity to learn from the incident and be held accountable for
'repairing the harm' caused, thus restoring him or her to the
UM Carey Law Mediation Clinic students with formal mediation and
conflict resolution training provide regular support to K-12 students
by collaborating with schools on a variety of practices: mediation,
dialogue circles, and peer mediation training. Students learn that it
can be safe to express their feelings, and communication can help in
not letting peer pressure or malicious gossip escalate into physical
"With kids you see a lot of issues around gossip," says UM Carey Law
student Kendall Clise, who mediates with students in conflict at
Holabird Academy in Baltimore. "It's challenging; kids are impacted by
the behavior of their peers, and that can influence their behavior."
Since introducing restorative practices three years ago, Anthony Ruby,
Holabird's Principal, says suspensions have dropped from nearly 100 to
just two. "Just suspending students or punishing them doesn't fix
anything," he added.
During a C-DRUM-led community-building dialogue circle at Sligo Middle
School in Silver Spring, eighth-grade students talked about how they
could talk to their parents and peers without lying or feeling guilty.
"I've learned that talking to people is the right choice," said a
13-year-old student after participating in the dialogue circle. "I've
learned perspective -- how to put myself in someone else's shoes."
Data from Sligo Middle affirm that talking out problems and using
restorative practices lead to promising outcomes: 2012-2013 figures
show a 24 percent reduction in office referrals and a 44 percent
reduction in suspensions compared with the prior year. And when
surveyed, 81 percent of teachers say they feel more connected to their
Click here to see C-DRUM at
work in the classroom.
|Posting Date: 03/14/2014
|Contact Name: Jill Yesko
|Contact Phone: 410-706-3803
|Contact Email: email@example.com