STUDENTS ABLE TO RESOLVE SITUATIONS (STARS)
1. Briefly describe the structure of your program.
Students Able to Resolve Situations (STARS) program is structured in a way that each school can individualize the program to meet their studentsí needs. Targeted schools are those that have experienced significant problems with campus violence. Each school is free to name their STARS program. For example in Inglewood High it is called T.R.U.S.T (Talking, Resolving, & Understanding Studentsí Tensions). STARS referrals come from teachers, principles, school staff, parents, and students. The response to the STARS program has been extremely positive from all parties involved. With the help of a facilitator, a range of students (elected and natural leaders, high and low achievers), are selected from the student body to design the program and spearhead its adoption throughout the school. Student mediators are then selected and trained to facilitate the resolution of conflicts referred by other students and faculty. The program dovetails with other campus violence prevention programs.
The student mediators participate in all aspects of the program, ranging from the initial planning committee meetings to facilitating the mediations and agreements themselves. The school-based mediation program helps the students who are in conflict learn to resolve disputes peacefully. The benefits to students are: leadership skills, heightened empathy for others, self-esteem, communication skills, critical thinking, and decision making skills.
The students, faculty, administrators, security personnel, and parents comprise the planning committee. Together they address the elements of the program, decide upon issues to be mediated, spearhead the programís adoption throughout the school, outline the selection process for mediators, secure a site for mediations, outline the responsibilities of the on-site coordinator, select the name for the program, and facilitate its operation. They also learn how to co-mediate a meeting between two conflicting parties while maintaining the character of a neutral third party. Most importantly, we explore in-depth the critical need for neutrality when the issues of anger and prejudice are discussed.
Student mediators are chosen based on varying criteria. Students may nominate themselves, however the first group is usually chosen by administration and staff. The selectees are representative of a cross-section of the student body. They differ according to ethnic group, gender, and cultural identity. They should be "natural leaders" who have a following and can act as role models on campus. All students, including those considered "at-risk" can benefit from learning peaceful conflict resolution skills.
Once mediators are selected, they receive between 12 and 20 hours of classroom training. The components of the training consist of; exploring the nature of conflict, human responses to conflict, anger management, communication skills, identifying hot issues, exploring the underlying interests and needs of the disputants, brainstorming, and crafting agreements. Role playing is used extensively throughout the training as a learning tool. They attend in-service sessions throughout the year that involve mock mediation practice or focusing on specific issues, such as empathy building and prejudice reduction.
Typical issues dealt within mediation are: dirty looks, sexual harassment, rumors/gossip, threats, relationship issues, derogatory remarks (racial slurs and other types), fights (physical and verbal), theft of personal property, damage to personal property and any other type of case deemed appropriate by the school administration. One of the goals of STARS is to incorporate the mediation process into every schoolís disciplinary code.
2. When was the program created and why?
Unique and highly regarded, CVJDP is a community-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization administered by the City of Inglewood under the leadership of the Job Training and Development Department with the purpose of creating and implementing programs that positively influence youth at risk for delinquent and destructive behavior. Our conflict resolution programs are aimed at reaching young people before they become entrenched in harmful activities by providing them with the tools to become productive members of society. Our project is one of a very few in the country that works with urban youth on conflict resolution in three important areas of their lives: family, community, and school. Founded in 1975, CVJDP has along history of providing services to this community's youth and their families at no cost. Our hard work was rewarded on March 11, 1998 when the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors honored us with an award for the Outstanding Mediation Project for the County of Los Angeles.
From the beginning in 1975, CVJDP has provided quality individual, family, and group counseling, as well as remedial education services. CVJDP has greatly expanded its capacity within the last seven years to include all of the following programs and services:
1) Families Able to Resolve Situations (FARS), a parent/child mediation program successfully intervening with youth that have been identified as being "incorrigible". These youth are in crisis, are delinquent and are in danger of being removed or running away from the home;
2) Students Able to Resolve Situations (STARS), a school-based mediation program, created in 1995, aimed at improving learning conditions by reducing student conflicts, campus violence, truancy, suspensions, and expulsions;
3) Victim Offender Restitution Services (VORS), a countywide victim/offender juvenile mediation program endorsed by the Presiding Judge of Juvenile Court. Helps first and second time offenders take responsibility for their actions and provide restitution to their victims;
4) Counseling Intervention Program, provides individual, group and family counseling to the community;
5) The annual Centinela Valley Social Service Directory, CVJDP publishes the only comprehensive directory of social services in the Centinela Valley. A popular reference tool, this directory is used by more than a thousand social service and law enforcement professionals throughout the area;
6) The Centinela Valley After-School Activities Directory, providing youth and youth service providers with a resource to determine what activities are available to youth in the Centinela Valley area; and
7) Youth Anger Management Classes, Parenting Classes and Remedial Education Assistance.
CVJDP's STARS program has established school-based mediation services in six schools (three in Inglewood) and provided conflict resolution training in three additional schools (one in Inglewood). The STARS program also assisted in the implementation of a countywide youth mediation conference. The agency has trained more than 300 student mediators, and encourages these students to explore the option of mediation as a career. The STARS program was selected to be part of the School to Work Alliance and the Community Bridges program in the Hawthorne School District.
In the early to mid 1990's there was a sharp increase in school violence in the Inglewood and surrounding areas. A community coalition called the Inglewood Coalition for Drug and Violence Prevention began to discuss what the options were for dealing with this problem. STARS was one of the results with the City of Inglewood as the home for the program. Before STARS, schools in the Inglewood area lacked dispute resolution programs, to intervene and strengthen youth by reducing conflict through opening positive communication with peers and resolving behavioral disputes. Many youth struggle to overcome severe social challenges, causing conflicts that increase the likelihood of destructive and delinquent behavior. Studies show that youth who are experiencing school failure and related problems of truancy, and family conflict, are most likely to become involved in more serious behaviors such as gang activity and crime. The lack of services available to youth in conflict and the extreme complexity of the problems faced by youth in the Centinela Valley area speak to the need for the STARS program to continue to expand its dispute resolution capacity, reaching as many students in need as possible. Funding provided by the Inglewood Police Departmentís Law Enforcement Block Grant Safe Schools Program has allowed for additional growth.
CVJDP has found that when students in conflict come together in a structured and safe environment for the purpose of resolving conflict, they are willing and able to reach a mutual agreement and stick to it.
3. How do you measure the programís effectiveness?
At each school data is gathered to determine if there has been a reduction in suspensions and expulsions due to fighting and violence. Although this does not directly relate to the program, the statistics indicate a reduction in these suspensions and expulsions after STARS was introduced in the schools. It is believed these reductions can be attributed to STARS, as well as other youth development programs in the schools. STARS is in the process of developing an evaluative survey given to each student after the mediation and again three months later to determine the effectiveness of the program. Starting this year the STARS coordinator will check the record of each student who has participated in the program to ascertain whether they have had any further disciplinary actions due to fighting.
4. How is the program financed?
STARS receives funding from several different sources. Included in those sources are foundations and corporations, state and county government offices, the Inglewood Police Department, and the City of Inglewood.
5. How is the community involved in the program, if at all? How has the community responded to the program?
STARS has elicited strong involvement from the community because it is based in the school environment, is backed by the city police and government, and requires participation by school administration, staff, students, and parents. Community response to STARS has been extremely positive. Other schools have approached STARS about implementing the program. Parents have given positive feedback, as well. Student mediators have expressed great satisfaction with the program and how they were able to use their new skills in life, even after graduation.
6. Contact person:
The United States Conference of Mayors
J. Thomas Cochran, Executive Director
Copyright © 1999, US Conference of Mayors, All rights reserved.