Sponsored through a partnership of the Pennsylvania Bar Association and Attorney General Mike Fisher, Project PEACE (Peaceful Endings Through Attorneys, Children and Educators) works to reduce conflict and violence in Pennsylvania’s elementary schools by teaching students how to discuss and mediate disagreements peacefully. Teams of principals, educators, parents and attorneys representing 11 elementary schools from across the commonwealth took part in a 2 1/2 day Project PEACE training in Harrisburg, January 9 - 11, 2000. The program also is partially funded by the Pennsylvania Bar Foundation and the Pennsylvania Bar Trust.
The Project PEACE training model was developed by the Temple-LEAP program of the Temple University Beasley School of Law. It initially was created for a program in Indiana and has since been modified to meet the needs of Pennsylvania’s schools. Pennsylvania is the second state in the country to offer this type of peer mediation training to elementary schools.
During the training conference, school teams composed of one administrator, two educators/ counselors, one parent and one attorney were introduced to the peer mediation process through hands-on learning activities. They will receive instruction in such areas as adjudication versus mediation, diffusing conflict situations and the necessary skills of conflict resolution.
By the end of the training, the schools wrote their own mediation plans, which will be introduced to their local schools. Typically, the mediation plan will be presented to key members of the school and at-large communities, including students, educators, central administration members and parents, to gain support. Following the presentation, the school will select and train its student mediators, who are chosen through a nomination/application and interview process. The student mediators then will begin to help fellow students resolve disputes peacefully. Law school students will work with the school throughout the implementation process.
The instructors who conducted the Project PEACE training conference are experts in mediation within the courts and schools. The trainers include Dr. Morris Jenkins, Pennsylvania State University Abington campus professor; Mary Ellen Schaffer, principal at Bromberek Elementary School in Lamont, IL; Karla Taylor-Temple, a mediation trainer, Indianapolis, IN; and David Keller Trevaskis, executive director of Temple-LEAP program in Philadelphia.