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Kids Mediate Playground Disputes

April 23, 1985

CLEVELAND (AP) _ Five kids chosen as ″conflict managers″ to mediate playground disputes are helping overcome the ″violent stuff″ so prevalent in their inner-city life in the housing projects, a program adviser says.

Ten-year-old Ramon Troche is one of the students who went through the eight-hour training program at the Law & Public Service Magnet High School, created by the Cleveland School District, Cleveland Marshall College of Law and the College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University.

″It’s exciting. I get to do something for the school,″ said Ramon, who attends Robert Fulton Elementary School. ″You aren’t just a regular person.″

″I love this coming out here,″ Ramon said recently as he watched for trouble while sporting a red T-shirt reading, ″Conflict Manager.″

Many of the school’s children live in inner-city housing projects and learn early to fight for what they want, school officials say.

″You grow up in a Cleveland housing project, it’s violent stuff,″ said Judy Zimmer, a lawyer at the law school who works with the magnet school. ″The effect on the kids after their training was incredible. Their body postures changed. They were more erect, more confident.″

As the young mediators began their duties for the first time last week, Dana McDowell, 12, calmed screaming participants in a pick-up basketball game. Tempers flared when one player grabbed at the ball-handler’s legs. The boy with the ball and the defender nearly came to blows.

The defender ″was talking mess,″ Dana said. After a consultation with Dana, they agreed to shake hands and continue the game.

Carlton Barnes, 13, Ephriam Dunn, 11, and Emmanuel Thornton, 10, round out the crew of new conflict managers.