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Kids Trained By Kids In Playground Conflict Management With PM-Another Look-Aggressive Girls,

March 3, 1986

Kids Trained By Kids In Playground Conflict Management With PM-Another Look-Aggressive Girls, Bjt

CLEVELAND (AP) _ If anyone wonders what elementary school pupils can learn from students at Law and Public Service Magnet High School about how to manage conflicts and keep peace on the playground, the record speaks for itself.

″At this law and public service magnet (school), they just don’t have fights,″ said Shirley Seaton, who is in charge of social studies programs for Cleveland’s schools. ″It’s something that just doesn’t happen.″

An unusual program at the high school, under which students are trained to mediate disputes ranging from a hallway disagreement to a burgeoning food fight in the cafeteria, has been carried a step further: the high schoolers training 10 children from Robert Fulton Elementary School.

The magnet school has about 320 students and is a school within a school at Martin Luther King High in a predominantly black section of the city. It was set up by the Cleveland Marshall College of Law, the College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University and the city public schools.

Students at the magnet school have been learning for three years from adults in the Community Youth Mediation Project how to defuse disputes. The program originated in San Francisco in the early 1980s.

Among the student trainers is Gloria Epperson, a 16-year-old sophomore who someday would like to be a criminal defense lawyer.

″I like to talk a lot,″ she said. ″I like to relate to people. I like to argue. This school is the perfect place to start.″

What do the students learn?

Fulton sixth-grader Emanuel Thornton pointed to ″trigger words″ - those words that produce an emotional, often violent reaction from others.

″The way you respond is to ignore it or pay no attention to it,″ the 11- year-old said.

″My trigger is ’shorty,‴ the diminutive Gloria added. ″I hate to be called shorty - but I can deal with it.″

One training exercise divides the students for an imaginary cafeteria ketchup crossfire, with one side representing the ″squirters″ and the other side the ″squirtees.″ After acting out how they would respond - with trained peacemakers demonstrating when to step in - the groups switch roles, learning to see from others’ perspectives.

One of those watching the exercise is George Mines, a Fulton teacher who will become the adviser for this group of conflict managers. Mines wasn’t directly involved with the program when it started last year, but he did see how it helped two of his sixth-graders.

″They were much more aware of their own behavior,″ he said. ″They felt they were obligated to set an example.″

Kids can’t be conflict managers without their parents’ permission and parents are assured that their children will not break up a fight once it gets physical.

Dewey Carducci, who works with delinquents in the Cleveland schools and is the author of ″The Caring Classroom,″ values the program for teaching kids that all their needs can’t be met and that they have to learn the art of compromise.

″To me, it’s a sleeping giant,″ he said. ″We haven’t even begun to tap the use of peers as helpers.″

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