VIOLENCE PREVENTION

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Make a commitment not to contribute to violence in any way. Do not bully, tease, haze, or spread negative gossip about others. Respect others and value differences. Try to broaden your social circle to include others who are different from you.

Get involved in your school and community. Volunteer with a community group, play sports, write a play or poem, play a musical instrument, or join a club or afterschool program.

Avoid alcohol and drugs. Stay away from alcohol and drugs and people who use them. There is a strong link between the use of alcohol and drugs and violence.

Learn about ways to resolve arguments and fights without violence, and encourage your friends to do the same. Many schools, churches, and after-school programs offer training in conflict resolution skills.

Do not carry a gun or other weapons. Carrying a gun will not make you safer. Guns often escalate conflicts and increase the chances that you will be seriously harmed. If someone is threatening you and you feel that you are in serious danger, do not take matters into your own hands. Find an adult you can trust and discuss your fears, or contact school administrators or the police. Take precautions for your safety, such as avoiding being alone and staying with a group of friends, whenever possible.

If you know someone who is planning to harm someone else - report him or her. Most of us have learned from an early age that it is wrong to tattle, but in some instances it is the most courageous thing you can do. Tell a trusted adult, such as a teacher, guidance counselor, principal, or parent. If you are afraid and believe that telling will put you in danger or will lead to retaliation, find a way to contact the authorities anonymously.

Take the initiative to make your school or community safer. Join an existing group that is promoting nonviolence in your school or community, or launch your own effort.

Try Mediation for Conflict Resolution

The mediation process provides a way for people to resolve their disagreements before either party resorts to violence.

In the mediation process, a person trained as a mediator helps two or more people resolve a conflict without resorting to violence. The conflict being resolved might be as simple as who should pay for a damaged locker or as complex as which person should receive custody of a child in the case of divorce. In any situation, mediation involves solving the dispute through peaceful means. The mediator does not draw up the terms of the solution - the people with the conflict (the participants) do. In addition, it is the participants, not the mediator, who enforce the agreed-upon solution.

The mediator doesn't decide what is right or wrong or find people guilty or innocent as a judge would in a courtroom. Instead, the mediator plays a special role by helping the disputants find and agree upon a peaceful way to resolve their conflict.

According to the National Crime Prevention Council, mediation has helped to reduce violence in neighborhoods and schools. Using peers as mediators - a process known as peer mediation - is a popular way to handle conflicts and prevent violence in middle and high schools. Schools recruit and train students interested in peer mediation. Guidance counselors or other trained professionals teach the young mediators how to listen to both sides of an argument, offer unbiased impressions, and help students in conflict find a workable solution to their problem.

Peer mediators help the disputants rechannel anger and reach peaceful agreements. When a disagreement or conflict arises, a teacher, an administrator, a concerned student, or the fighting students themselves can refer the issue to peer mediation. A peer mediator is quickly assigned and the mediation process begins, thus resolving the issue and preventing further discord. Playground mediators in elementary schools similarly help prevent fights and resolve disagreements between much younger students.

Mediation programs run for youth by youth have been extremely successful across the nation. School systems report reduced violence in their schools as a result of such programs.

Peer mediation is a learned skill and requires training. To learn more about how to be trained as a peer mediator, contact the National Association of Peer Programs (www.peerhelping.org) toll-free at 877- 314-7337; by mail at P.O. Box 32272, Kansas City, Missouri 64171-5272; by fax at 913-362 0735; or by e-mail at npha@peerhelping.org.

 

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