Mason to Host Annual Student Mediation Conference

Posted: March 12, 2007 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Newspapers and news shows highlight incidents of school violence and gangs. They don’t always tell the success stories of how schools and communities are working to reduce violence and harm.

Thousands of students use peaceful conflict resolution strategies to resolve disputes after learning the skills of mediation and working as peer mediators in their schools to help other students work out their differences.

On March 13 and 14, Mason will host nearly 2,000 students, teachers, counselors, administrators, parents and community volunteers from more than 125 schools in Fairfax, Arlington, Alexandria, Loudoun and the District of Columbia for the 15th Annual Northern Virginia Regional Student Mediation Conference.

Participants will learn skills and strategies to reinforce the work that they do to make their schools safe and respectful learning environments.

The Pathways to Peace Conference will emphasize the theme that conflict resolution skills provide the power to make a difference. During the workshops, participants will explore how student mediators can use their skills in mediation, communication, teamwork, listening, trust, respect and anger management to help guide their peers towards the peaceful resolution of conflict. High school peer mediators from approximately 10 high schools will help facilitate the workshops.

The March 13 conference for middle schools begins with introductory remarks by Richard Moniuszko, deputy superintendent of Fairfax County Public Schools (FCPS). Jack Dale, superintendent of FCPS, will welcome participants on March 14, the elementary school day.

The opening session of the conference will feature mediators from West Potomac High School on March 13 and from Annandale High School on March 14. These high school mediators will present an “improv” skit focusing on typical student conflicts. They’ll invite the conference participants to use their skills to help them resolve the conflict.

Participants can select a workshop from nine different strands – ranging from introductory to highly advanced. Two workshops are designed for adults only. The workshops are co-facilitated by adult mediators from the community and schools in partnership with experienced high school and middle school mediators.

The Pathways to Peace Conference is sponsored by FCPS and Mason’s Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution in cooperation with Arlington County Public Schools, Fairfax County Department of Family Services, Fairfax County Office of Partnerships, the Northern Virginia Mediation Service, and the Fairfax County Alternative Dispute Resolution Office. Additional participating organizations include Alexandria City Public Schools, District of Columbia Public Schools, and Loudoun County Public Schools. Several private schools will also be in attendance.

For further information, contact Marge Bleiweis, conflict resolution specialist, Safe and Drug-Free Youth Section, FCPS, 571-423-4273.

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