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Peer-Mediation with Bullies

Middle School Expert Advice from Connie Collins

Q: Do you believe a child and a bully should get together to discuss the problem of being bullied? Wouldn't this cause the bully to retaliate? I'm afraid if my daughter confronts her bully, the problem would only get worse.

A: In most peer mediation programs, both parties -- bully and victim -- do come together to discuss the problem and they both sign an agreement that details what each will do in the future if the problem arises again. Also, the mediators inform the students that a copy goes to the peer mediation coordinator and the assistant principal (or whoever is in charge of discipline.) If a child breaks the agreement -- if the bully retaliates - she will be disciplined appropriately. It is important that mediation take place before the boiling point is reached and physical assault occurs. I do not recommend peer mediation for physical bullying or fighting until after the student(s) has been disciplined. If a bully continues in spite of mediation and/or discipline, I encourage parents to file with the student resource officer.

In all the cases of peer mediation that I have coordinated, I have only seen the agreement broken twice. I do not see bullies retaliating if a program is responsibly coordinated and really supported by the school.

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Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.


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