Attorney General Jerry Pappert and Pennsylvania Bar Association President Thomas M. Golden hosted participants from 12 Pennsylvania elementary schools as part of the fifth annual Project PEACE (Peaceful Endings through Attorneys, Children and Educators) training conference March 12-13, 2004. Pennsylvania is the second state in the nation to feature this program in an effort to reduce school violence.
Project PEACE was developed by the LEAP Kids program to teach elementary school children to peacefully resolve conflicts with fellow students. During the two-day training session, teams of principals, educators, parents, counselors and attorneys took part in role-playing activities to teach conflict resolution skills and to develop mediation programs at their individual schools.
“Everyone wins when our schools become safer places, which is exactly what Project PEACE is about,” Pappert said during an announcement at the Ramada Inn in Altoona. “Children cannot learn and teachers cannot teach if there is a climate of fear in a school. Project PEACE helps make schools safer by reducing the conflicts that lead to violence.”
“The Pennsylvania Bar Association (PBA) is pleased to continue our partnership in this unique peer mediation program with our new Attorney General, Jerry Pappert,” said PBA Thomas M. Golden. “Over the past four years we have seen how Project PEACE can make a difference in Pennsylvania schools. The schools had a reduction in violence and conflict and their students gained important life skills that promote self-esteem and problem solving. We are anxious for this year's group of schools to gain the same opportunities.”
Highlights of this year’s program included mock mediations by students from Juniata Valley Elementary School in Alexandria and Windber Elementary School in Windber. The students demonstrated actual mediations that had occurred as part of the Project PEACE program adopted in their schools. The training session also included exercises in constructive conflict communication, problem solving and critical thinking.
“Today’s children live in a culture that is saturated with messages about violence – they see it on television and in movies, and it fills their music and video games,” Pappert said. “That is why it is so important for us to work with this next generation and give them the skills they need to solve conflicts without resorting to violence.”
This year’s schools include: Alternative Learning Center, Plains, Luzerne County; Carson Valley School, Flourtown, Montgomery County; Good Shepherd School, Camp Hill, Cumberland County; John W. Price Elementary School, Lancaster; Loyalsock Valley Elementary School, Montoursville, Lycoming County; Lynwood Elementary School, Hanover Township, Luzerne County; Manchester Academic Charter School, Pittsburgh; Math, Civics & Sciences Charter School, Philadelphia; Richard Allen Preparatory Charter School, Philadelphia; St. Anastasia School, Newtown Square, Delaware County; Saint Monica School, Berwyn, Chester County; and Wyoming Valley Montessori School, Kingston, Luzerne County.
Since Project PEACE was brought to Pennsylvania five years ago, nearly 60 elementary schools have implemented the program to resolve conflicts in their schools.