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High School Using Peer Mediation Program to Address Racial Tension

Thursday, December, 27, 2018

High schools across the country are using peer mediation programs to resolve disputes between students and Southeast High School is no exception.


According to Deia Lasu, a senior student at the school, she reached her boiling point during the school’s morning announcements on Martin Luther King Jr. Day that quoted Dr. King’s widow noting the importance of the day and King’s desire that society one day be colorblind.


Lasu found the comment offensive because it called into question her desire for the world to see her race and acknowledge and accept it. In response, Lasu wrote to Southeast’s principal telling him that being colorblind is a “form of privilege” and disregards races and cultures.


Lasu’s letter resulted in several meetings with her principal and eventually other students were brought in. These meetings eventually led to the formation of peer mediation, which Lasu and her principal hope will change the schools culture and resolve disputes.


Explains Southeast’s principal, “What began as a conversation with a couple of students around race ... led to the formation of a group that really has a much broader goal of changing (school) climate by resolving issues that arise, some that may be racial in nature.”


The program has already had an opportunity to help students. In one case it was a dispute that began after student were quoted in the school’s newspaper telling immigrants to leave the country if they were not legal. Other students participated in mediation after offensive language was used.


In addition to the program to settle specific disputes, the change in approach has carried over into the classroom and students often discuss divisive political issues during class discussions.