Mediation Professionals Introduce Concepts to Public Schools in Iowa
Since the fall of 2017, Mediation Services of Easier Iowa (MSEI) has been sharing opportunities and concepts with Iowa school administrators and students. The company has helped the school system develop “restorative justice talk circles. ” These circles provide an opportunity to deal with fights between students, co-workers, and community members without the drama and punishment that was the norm.
Because of the program there are no more winners and losers, and disputes are simply settled in the best way possible.
Participants in each mediation circle have four rules:
- They cannot interrupt others while they are speaking
- They must show respect when speaking and listening
- They cannot use hurtful or harmful words
- They must be honest
MSEI understands that these four tenants are the basis for successful mediation. When parties involved in a conflict feel misunderstood or disrespected the problem escalates. Even if a resolution is reached, everyone walks away upset and resistant. The talk circles allow everyone to get their feelings out, feel heard, and play an important role in the resolution.
According to Laura Cottrell, principal at Northwest Junior High, the circles offer collective accountability which is extremely powerful. She explains, “We are not just looking at a person who has done harm as a cancer in society, but as a part of the solution to the harm that they caused. And together as community we can figure out what that is. ”
So far, MSEI has held the mediation-based talk circles for teachers at Kirkwood Elementary, Tate High School, Southeast Junior High, Northwest Junior High, West High and Liberty High School.