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Attorney General Mike Fisher and Pennsylvania Bar Association President-Elect H. Reginald Belden Jr. kicked off the second annual Project PEACE training program designed to reduce conflict and violence in Pennsylvania elementary schools. The program was held at the Harrisburg Hilton, Feb. 1 – 3, 2003. “Project PEACE works,” said Fisher during his opening remarks to participants attending the three-day training conference. “During the last year, student mediators have successfully reduced tension levels and diffused potentially explosive situations among their peers. After this training, I’m confident that your schools will be added to this program’s success story.”

Sponsored by the Attorney General’s Office and the Pennsylvania Bar Association, Project PEACE (Peaceful Endings Through Attorneys, Children and Educators) seeks to teach students how to discuss and mediate disagreements peacefully. Teams of principals, educators, parents, counselors and attorneys representing 12 elementary schools from across the commonwealth participated in the Project PEACE training conference.

“The PBA is pleased to join with Attorney General Fisher in offering this peer mediation program to elementary schools again this year,” said Belden. “Over the past year we have seen first-hand how Project PEACE can make a difference in Pennsylvania schools. The schools had a reduction in violence and conflict, and their students were empowered with 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.”

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.

Fisher said, during the conference the 12 school teams were introduced to the peer mediation process through hands-on learning activities. They received instruction in such areas as adjudication versus mediation, diffusing conflict situations and the necessary skills of conflict resolution.

The conference also featured a student mediation team from Shaull Elementary School in Enola, Cumberland County that demonstrated how the Project PEACE peer mediation process works. The students took a real-life conflict among their peers and recreated the steps that were taken to ultimately resolve the problem.

By the end of the training, the schools wrote their own mediation plans, which will be introduced to their local schools. Each school then will select and train its own student mediators who will begin to assist their peers in resolving disputes peacefully. Law school students will work with the school throughout the implementation process.

The schools that attended the training included: Finletter Elementary School, Philadelphia; Robeson Elementary Center, Birdsboro, Berks County; Brecknock Elementary School, Denver, Lancaster County; Mount Carmel Elementary School, Mt. Carmel, Northumberland County; Middleburg Elementary School, Middleburg, Snyder County; Monsignor McHugh School Cresco, Monroe County; West Hempfield Elementary School, Irwin, Westmoreland County; Hickory Grove Elementary School, Brookville, Jefferson County; Juniata Valley Elementary School, Alexandria, Huntingdon County; Jarrettown Elementary School, Dresher, Montgomery County; College Square Elementary School, Beaver, Beaver County; Cornell Intermediate School, McKeesport, Allegheny County.
The instructors who conducted the Project PEACE training conference are experts in mediation within the courts and schools. The trainers include Artemus Carter, Street Law Inc., Washington, D.C.; 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.