Inaugural Peer Mediation Conference could be life-changing

On April 24 at the Kauai Veteran’s Center, the Kapaa High School Peer Mediation Team will be hosting its first peer mediation conference, open to the public, from 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Registration begins at 8:30. Teacher and coach Keith Kitamura has been guiding this team for eight years. Within the past few years the team has extended their scope of mediating conflicts for and with their peers at Kapaa High.

They are a busy group, and a close-knit ohana. Besides painting beautiful artwork of scenes depicting peace or creating it, they gave a breezeway a lift by writing the seven parts of being a good friend, leader, mediator, team member, etc. They have become anti-bullying peace makers right on the spot, and will intervene offering immediate help when conflicts escalate and a fight appears to be brewing.

Some of the projects that they have undertaken are sharing their wisdom with some elementary and middle schools attending the Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Peace events, speaking at the East Side Family Summit, speaking out against methamphetamines, fundraising to attend the yearly all-island peer mediators conference on Oahu, participating in the Kauai peace events and much more.

This year, they are realizing a long-time dream of having their own islandwide conference for peer mediators and others interested in peace making on Kauai. Their hopes are that all the schools and administrators will see what an advantage having a peer mediation team can offer.

With the ever-increasing demands on teachers and counselors, it has been difficult for principals to enlist a teacher/coach for their schools. But what if the communities that they served raised money to pay mediation coaches, just like football coaches get paid? One day, Keith, Jessie Bassquez of Kauai Economic Opportunity and I were discussing what amount we thought that seemed a fair amount to be paid. We came up with $3,000.

There are generous benefactors on this island who seem able to raise money for anything that they deem worthy. This is worthy. There are six Rotary Clubs on Kauai. There are six middle and high schools. There is plenty of evidence to prove that peer mediators have a positive effect on their families and the community members that they associate with.

Think employers: Wouldn’t you love to hire someone who knew how to help others resolve conflicts work for you? Think parents: Can you imagine how wonderful it would be to have one child model how to resolve conflicts in the family? Think Kauai: All small claims cases that come to the 5th Circuit Court are mediated before they come before a judge. About 70 percent of them get resolved relatively peacefully and just the solutions are read in court. Wouldn’t it be nice to know something about the process? Think students: How wonderful would it look on your college application to be a part of a mediation team?

The following have been identified as qualities of good student peer mediators:

w Respected by their peers

w Someone other kids feel comfortable talking with

w Ability to listen to other students

w Ability to maintain confidentiality

w Interested in helping other students

w Hearts big enough to feel for themselves, friends, and others in need.

Mediation is a confidential voluntary process where a neutral person (who takes no sides) helps those with the conflict reach their own solution to the problem. Confidentiality means that no one talks about the situation once the mediation is complete.

Let’s say that rumors are flying that two students who have been calling each other names are talking about fighting. It’s become disruptive to the school. Peer mediators may be able to help the students reach a solution.

Peer mediators ask good questions so that each disputant (person in conflict) sees the other’s side, and why each thinks the way they do. When each side can understand the other person, mediators help the disputants brainstorm their own solutions. Think about it. If the kids got into the problem, they can get themselves out of it with a little support.

Nobody tells them how to “fix it,” or gives them a punishment. Mediators don’t judge who is right or wrong. The focus is always what do we do now so that each person gets his/her needs met as much as possible.

The disputants agree only on what solutions they believe will work. The mediator then writes down the agreements. Everyone signs it. Each side gets a copy of it. Built into the agreement is what to do if one side doesn’t follow through.

And remember, it’s confidential. Any student who breaks confidentiality is expelled from the program. It hasn’t happened yet.

In the case above, it’s determined that a third person has been telling each of the disputants that the other person is calling them names, which they weren’t. The disputants agreed to approach that person together to get to the truth.

They also agree that in the future, if they hear rumors about the other person calling them names, they will speak to the other disputant directly and ask about it. This case is one that actually occurred at a high school. The case was referred because the disputants had been scheduled for a fight after school.

The Kapaa team is tech savvy. They’ve created their own “Kapaa High Peer Mediation ‘Ohana” brochure. Under the heading “What Conflicts should be Mediated?” they state, “Mediation can be appropriate in almost any case where the parties are willing to participate in a peace-making process; ‘listen’ to each others’ thoughts and feelings; let go of blame; and look to the future by negotiating solutions that work for everyone.

“We can help with conflicts concerning:

w Rumors

w Bullying/name-calling

w Peer relationships

w Peer pressure

w Disagreements/arguments

w Money/property”

Comments from mediation participants include: “Peer mediators have helped me a lot with my problem with my closest friend. Thank-you mediators.”

“Mediation allowed me to hear the other side of the story.”

“The program teaches you how to communicate better and solve your problems without getting physical.”

“Having our peers help us is easier than having adults because your peers understand you better because they are closer to our age.”

Their website is www.kapaahighschool.net/pm

On Oct. 16, 2014 for Kindness Day, the Kapaa Mediation Team gave a program for the mayor and some of his staff, several Kauai Council Members, Gov. Abercrombie’s representative, Wanda Shibata, and various other people in the community.

Mayor Carvalho liked it so much he wanted more of his staff to see it. They will be attending this conference. So are some council members and other community groups that help others in the community.

On Wednesday, April 15, 2015, the Kapaa Peer Mediation Team will be given a Proclamation by the Mayor, and a Certificate of Recognition by the County Council.

Come meet and hear them for yourself. The team was graciously supported by Kapaa High School, and they are paying for buses to send students in from Waimea High, Kapa’a High, and Kapa’a Middle.

If there are students at Waimea High who want a ride, they need to contact Counselor and Waimea Peer Mediation Team Coach Breanna Akama at Breanna_Akama@notes.k12.hi.us. Students who want a ride from Kapaa High or Middle School contact Keith Kitamura at Keith_Kitamura/Kapaah/hidoe@notes.k12.hi.us

The four main topics covered are peer mediation, anti-bullying, domestic violence and sexual abuse, and leadership. There is time allotted for the high school student leaders to meet and chat with their own island leaders, and allies in the community.

They have a budget for 200 lunches. Lunches will be reserved for the students first, but there will be plenty more. Lunches must be pre-ordered so please send the lunch request to Keith at the email address above by April 15.

Let’s support this team of peacemakers and leaders in our community. See you there!

Hale `Opio Kauai convened a support group of adults in our Kauai community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at aatkinson@haleopio.org

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