In Your Corner:

Hawai‘‘i supports conflict resolution

by Annaleah Atkinson – Special to The Garden Island

On Friday, at least 10 Kaua’i middle and high schoolers will be flying to Honolulu to participate in the 20th statewide Peer Mediation Conference. It is called “Power to the Peaceful.”

This year’s conference will focus on building and strengthening peer mediation in our schools and in our communities, and technology’s impact on conflict and mediation.

Mediation is an informal confidential process of dispute resolution led by a neutral mediator. The goal is not to prove who is right or wrong, but to come to an agreement that creates a win-win solution so that all parties get their needs met, as much as possible.

There are 30 sponsors for this event including the Hawai‘i State Bar Association, the Hawai‘i State Department of Education, the Bishop Estate, Kamehameha Schools, Hawai‘i State Family Court, the Hawai‘i State Legislature, the Hawai‘i Judiciary’s Center for Alternative Dispute Resolution, the Federal Drug Free/Safe Schools Program, the Federal Mediation & Conciliation Service, and University of Hawai‘i’s Program on Conflict Resolution.

Not only that, but the Hawaii State Judiciary gave a grant to the Center of Alternative Dispute Resolution in Honolulu to fund the making of a DVD/video at Waianae High School entitled “Working it Out.” This was created by the students themselves, and offers a thoughtful and peaceful way of communicating to others when emotions start to heat up. Kids are encouraged to stop, relax, think about what they want, and brainstorm how to get it while being “smooth and nice.”

They made a DVD for every school that wants one. They are nine minutes long. I will be picking them up at the conference on Feb. 16 for each middle and high school. I previewed the DVD, and don’t feel that it would be as appropriate as the video that Auntie Laura Taylor of the Aloha Peace Project lends to elementary schools. You can contact her at lgtaylor@hawaiiantel.net.

If you work with youth from ages 11 to 18, and want a video or DVD of “Working it Out” please email me at aatkinson@haleopio.org, and let me know if you prefer a video or DVD. I will ask for one for you.

Five out of the six public middle and high schools on Kaua‘i were trained in peer mediation this fall, and have active peer mediation programs. Teen Court jurors are already requiring that some assault or harassment cases use their school mediation teams to mediate between the victim and the offender. At Kapa’a Middle School some of the students who were referred for mediations have signed up to become mediators themselves in a second mediation training because the process was so helpful to them.

Kids listen to kids. I hope that the adults may be able to learn from Kaua‘i peer mediators as well. As the conference states, “Power to the Peaceful.”

“In Your Corner” is a phrase that means support. Its origin comes from boxing. In between rounds, the boxer retires to his corner, and a group of people coach him, give him medical help, water, and cheer him on.

Several adults have “stepped into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support in the boxing ring of life. They are Catherine Stovall, community response specialist, county of Kaua‘i; Edmund Acoba, Public Defender, Craig DeCosta, county Prosecuting Attorney, Paul Applegate, Kaua’i Police Department, Daniel Hamada, Superintendent of Schools, Jill Yoshimatsu, Director of the DOE Mokihana program, and Annaleah Atkinson, Teen Court Manager for Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i.

If you have something to share with Kaua‘i teens, or need to ask a question, e-mail Annaleah at aatkinson@haleopio.org, or snail mail her at Hale ‘Opio Kauai Inc., 2959 Umi St., Lihu’e, Hawai‘i, 96766. She will field it to the person who can best help with the answer.

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