Mediation/Conflict Resolution Programs & Bullying Prevention

Traditional peer mediation and conflict resolution programs, common in schools across the country, may be effective in cases of conflict between students of relatively equal power. However, they are not appropriate for dealing with bullying problems. According to Susan Limber, developmental psychologist and researcher at the Clemson University Institute on Family and Neighborhood Life in South Carolina:

"Bullying is a form of victimization and should be considered no more a 'conflict' than domestic violence or child abuse would be."

The message that both parties are partly right and partly wrong, and should work toward a compromise, is inappropriate for students involved in a bullying situation. Bullies should receive the message that their behavior is wrong and will not be tolerated, while victims should receive the message that they do not deserve to be bullied and that the adults around them will do everything possible to stop it. In fact, because of the imbalance in power that typically exists in bullying situations, mediation may actually cause further harm to victims of bullying by forcing them to confront their tormentors. Mediation should only be considered in the following bullying situation: if a victimized student specifically asks to confront the bully, he/she is adequately prepared to do so, and a qualified adult supervises the interaction.