The middle school girls were angry. Once friends, the group members had been immersed in Facebook and other disputes that had raged for weeks, with no signs of resolution until they requested a private mediation session with UM Carey Law 3L Chaz Remus. Although the girls didn't resolve their differences on the spot, they had by the end of week.
Mediation was crucial to their success, Remus believes. "It's difficult for middle school students to find a quiet, private place or time to talk out their problems," he says. Mediation gave that to the girls; they did the rest.
Working with UM Carey Law's Center for Dispute Resolution (C-DRUM), Remus, a student in the law school's Mediation Clinic, went twice weekly to Lakeland Elementary/Middle School in south Baltimore as part of an effort to help teachers, administrators and parents learn a repertoire of techniques for reducing tensions and resolving disputes, at home and in school.
His work was part of C-DRUM's successful, decade-long campaign which has touched roughly 6,000 students in more than 150 schools throughout Maryland.
The Maryland Schools Conflict Resolution Program, as it's called, is a partnership with C-DRUM, the Maryland Judiciary's Mediation and Conflict Resolution Office and the state's Department of Education.
The new skills are "useful, preventative measures for resolving disputes at Lakeland," according to its assistant principal Luis Espinoza. They're also popular. "By the end of the year, students were requesting mediations, confidentially or anonymously referring other students to mediations, and utilizing effective conflict resolution techniques to solve many of their everyday problems," Remus reports.