Peer mediation group has students helping students

Soaring in Unison
Posted on 05/06/2022
Eagle Peer Mediator Ella Allen

Students love communicating with other students, which they often prefer over adults. Eagle Peer Mediation, a concept developed by DeSoto Independent School District Student Support Services, encourages students to use what they love to take charge of settling their own conflicts.

“In peer mediation, students really use communication and problem-solving skills to come to a peaceful resolution, and that is the goal of it,” DeSoto ISD Executive Director of Student Support Services Dr. Jermaine Wilson said.

Applications are open for peer mediators on all DeSoto ISD secondary campuses which are: DeSoto High School, Katherine Johnson Technology Magnet Academy, Ruby Young Personalized STEAM Academy, and West and McCowan Middle Schools. Applications may be obtained from front offices and counseling centers on these campuses.

A group of DeSoto High School students in the CTE Education and Training pathway, whom Student Support Services trained in restorative practices, defined by Dr. Wilson, as being a set of skills, for adults or students, on how to repair relationships, restore peace and order when there’s been any kind of wrongdoing or harm, was the catalyst for the Eagle Peer Mediation program.

“Once we got them onboarded, we saw their excitement with being able to be leaders and being able to help resolve conflict,” Wilson said. “Thinking about the state of where our schools are, different situations that happen in a school, there’s definitely more students than adults.”

“I thought the training was fast and straight to the point of what the restorative practices are about and what I need to do to create a calm and successful circle,” DeSoto High School senior Ella Allen said.

Leveraging that excitement with the need for intervention by available resources has led to robust learning opportunities for students who will serve as peer mediators.

“They will actually go through a series of training to become trained peer mediators,” Dr. Wilson said. “Just so that they understand how to maintain confidence, build positive relationships, and really just equip them with the tools that they need in order to engage our students in the process of peer mediation.”

The decision to have students apply, versus being referred, opens up a wider pool of candidates.

“We’re going to give out applications because, a lot of times with peer mediation, when we ask for recommendations, people will give you the students that don’t have any issues,” Wilson said.

Wilson shared that most importantly, they want applicants who desire to be peer mediators, and with varying levels of school experiences. They hope applications will provide a range of potential peer mediators.

“Also, to find out who are some of our students that are struggling on the campuses, because those oftentimes are also our leaders,” Dr. Wilson said. “They just may not have had the opportunity to actually use their leadership skills in the correct way.”

While there is no set age range for peer mediators, specific grade levels are being sought to provide sustainability in program participation.

“We’re going to start with our seventh through ninth grade students, and then we have students at the high school who are currently 11th through 12th-graders that we’ll also train,” Dr. Wilson said. “We want to have a rising group of ninth grade students that are already trained that will be at DeSoto High School and a rising group of eighth grade students at our middle school campuses that will be trained.”

The training and opportunities to work among their peers will provide students with valuable life skills.

“I think the first thing is responsibility,” Dr. Wilson said. “It builds trust, because it says that as students, we trust that you can resolve this without having to go to disciplinary measures or an adult always intervening.”

As a CTE Practicum in Education and Training student, Allen sees Eagle Peer Mediation as beneficial for future assistance with student needs.

“I look forward to applying these practices to my classes by teaching them that they don't always have to react in an angry and stressed way,” she said. 

This level of student support enables them to take ownership of their environment, impacting their school’s culture and climate.

“I hope it empowers the students to really understand that they are the change agents that we have in our school,” Dr. Wilson said. “Instead of us focusing so much on the negative, it gives us an opportunity to actually instill them with some leadership skills, social-emotional learning skills and self-awareness.”