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Full Circle program teaches peer mediation at Salida Middle School

The Mountain Mail
James Redmond
Mail Staff Writer

Mediation role-playing exercise Salida Middle School students and staff and Full Circle Restorative Justice staff take part in a mediation role-playing exercise during peer mediation training April 12. Clockwise from left are Karen Latvala, Full Circle Restorative Justice school program coordinator; Bowman Russell, fifth-grader; Katherine Guthals, middle school counselor; Maisy Haynes, fifth-grader; and Patty LaTaille, Full Circle director.

Mediation role-playing exercise
Salida Middle School students and staff and Full Circle Restorative Justice staff take part in a mediation role-playing exercise during peer mediation training April 12. Clockwise from left are Karen Latvala, Full Circle Restorative Justice school program coordinator; Bowman Russell, fifth-grader; Katherine Guthals, middle school counselor; Maisy Haynes, fifth-grader; and Patty LaTaille, Full Circle director.

“We really feel the peer mediation (training) will change the school climate,” Katherine Guthals, Salida Middle School counselor, said during a Full Circle Restorative Justice peer mediation program Friday.

“This is a new collaboration,” Patty LaTaille, Full Circle Restorative Justice director, said.

The Salida Middle school peer mediation program, “P3: Peers Promoting Peace,” promotes peace through dialogue, addresses bullying and helps to empower kids, she said.

The mediation process will allow trained Salida Middle School students to help their peers settle problems through a guided dialogue and conflict-resolution process, which aims to have participants finish by signing a mediation contract.

During the training, middle school students used techniques such as mediation role-playing, exercises focusing on feelings and games that focused on empathy, LaTaille said.

The training is “very helpful,” Maisy Haynes, Salida Middle School fifth-grader, said.

The training teaches students they can work out their problems, sixth-grader Addison Bright said. Instead of just getting punished for wrong-doing, the training allows students to get involved in the process and possibly prevent the problem from coming up again, she said.

When students just get punished, they might resent the punishment and take that anger out on others, causing another problem, fifth-grader Bowman Russell said. Working through an issue with peer mediation could help prevent that, he said.

The school has a lot of students interested in the program, Guthals said. She said she thinks the program “will be even better next year,” once the students have more experience.

Because justice does not always mean punishment

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