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Juvenile Peer Mediation Expands Beyond Schools.

TROY, Mich. (ANS)--Zaynab Falman tried to ignore the daily fights in the hallways, but by the end of her first year of high school the conflicts and violence were affecting her morale and education. "I realized that the problems indirectly affected me by affecting my teachers and the overall atmosphere," she said.

Falman volunteered as a peer mediator in a program created by the Troy police department and the local Boys & Girls Club after a sharp rise in juvenile hostilities in 1997. Police data showed that of 1,200 juvenile incidents reported in Troy over a year, one in four involved disputes among peers.

Most of such conflicts occur among middle-school boys aged between 10 and 14, and the idea behind Teens Initiating Peaceful Solutions, or TIPS, is to prevent such juvenile disputes from escalating into crimes, said police community services officer Nicelette Kaptur.

While two out of Tray's three high schools had peer mediation programs in place, they were only available during school hours and on school grounds. Mediation referrals are passed along by teachers or other individuals to Kaptur, who contacts the disputants' parents and, with their approval, brings the two sides together with two peer mediators and an adult monitor.

"What makes our program unique is that it's the teens doing the mediation," Kaptur said. "If I didn't have the teen-agers, we'd be in a situation that you had parents, administrators or police officers telling them they were doing something wrong."

The attitude of the police department is also critical, said Steve Toth, executive director of the Boys & Girls Club. "The Troy police department is very community-minded," he said. "If you can get the problems when they're small, then they won't become police problems."

While schools nationwide are adopting peer mediation programs---8,500 schools currently use youth-led mediation to resolve conflict, according to the National Institute for Dispute Resolution--TIPS confronts conflicts that occur outside the confines of an institution.

Studies have shown that teen mediation has a long-term impact on its participants. Eighty-five percent of students trained in peer mediation will use negotiation to handle conflict, NIDR said. All TIPS disputants sign a written agreement at the end of their hour-long session, and they are given the option to return if needed. So far, none have returned.

Details: Zaynab Falman, 248-641-4774; Nicollete Kaptur, 248-524-3448; fax, 248-524-9023; Steve Toth, 248-689-1687; NIDR, 202-667-9700; fax: 202-667-8629. [C] 1999 The American News Service
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Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1U3MI
Date:Nov 22, 1999
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