High schools use peer mediation groups to resolve conflicts

LIHUE — Empowering students to think critically inside and outside the classroom is what Complex-Area Superintendent Bill Arakaki envisions.

“With the new Strategic Plan, empowerment of students regarding an education and the way they earn it is critical,” Arakaki said. “I call them our clients sometimes because we need to ask them what we can do to enhance their education. They’re the ones that are impacted by what goes on in school everyday.”

One way students are empowering themselves is through conflict resolution.

Kauai High School recently began a peer mediation club that allows students to work with one another on issues that affect everyday life.

“For them to participate and suggest things, like making peer mediation programs, they’re the ones who are really passionate about doing that,” Arakaki told The Garden Island. “All we have to figure out is how we, as adults, can better support these students to make a better environment for all students.”

Kauai High School senior Makani Sabala-Bactad, a member of Kauai High’s new peer mediation club, said providing students with another avenue to resolve issues with peers, rather than adults, allows for a better flow of communication and dialogue. That’s something Kapaa High School Principal Daniel Hamada said is the most important lesson of all.

Kapaa High actually began a peer mediation club nine years ago and it has become a popular program at the school, Hamada said.

“We have a very strong peer mediation group with ninth-graders to 12th-graders. They go around the island, including Kauai High as well, to present what they do at our school. If two students are having issues, we find that when their own peers can mediate, its powerful,” he said.

With students taking responsibility for their peers’ problems, it makes the lives of faculty and teachers easier.

“The students are involved and they’re the ones who take on the responsibility. And honestly, I’m glad. I think it’s a great thing,” Hamada said.

Even at the administration level, Arakaki is pleased to see students take the initiative.

“With bullying and different things going in schools, it does impact how students feel about school,” he said.

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