Conflicts impact youth on a daily basis. To bridge those divides, which often destroy friendships and lead to disciplinary action, students in the Maryland Carey Law Mediation Clinic annually partner with Baltimore City schools to provide conflict resolution programs and education. This year thirteen students in the Mediation Clinic worked with five schools throughout Baltimore: Callaway Elementary School, Rognel Heights Elementary-Middle School, Frederick Douglass High School, Dickey Hill Elementary-Middle School, and Benjamin Franklin High School. Their efforts even bridged a language barrier with the development of a bilingual peer mediation program.
“Creating a curriculum and teaching our skills to the students forced me to consider what the best practices for mediation really are, and gave me the opportunity to think about the strategies I have used as a mediator. I definitely think I have come out a better mediator because of these experiences,” stated Danny Adamson (2L). The conflict resolution services varied from providing in-school mediation to students in conflict, to training and supporting peer mediators, to teaching a series of classes on conflict resolution. The law students quickly found that creating meaningful learning experiences and connecting with youth required a different set of skills.
This year, Benjamin Franklin High School in south Baltimore presented a unique opportunity. The school social worker, Chip Hall, wanted to improve the school’s peer mediation program by training student mediators for whom English is a second language. Several Clinic students, including those with Spanish language abilities, partnered with the school to create a truly inclusive, bilingual peer mediation program. The law students drafted questions and conducted interviews of potential peer mediators in both English and Spanish. Once selected, the law students developed lesson plans and conducted joint training sessions involving all the peer mediators together.
According to Clinic student Dana Blech, “Rather than providing separate English and Spanish instruction, we offered the students the opportunity to speak in whatever language they preferred. We provided translation and customized instruction only when necessary.” The law students’ efforts helped bridge the language divide and built a more representative peer mediation program at the school.