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Eighth-graders present peer mediation program

POLSON — “Peer mediations are not usually this good,” Wyatt Lytton told the audience at the Superintendent’s Community Council. 

Lytton, Alisha and Melina Jore, Sharidan Russell and Claire Bick are all 8th graders at Polson Middle School (PMS), and they were demonstrating how they put what they learn in the Peer Counseling Program at PMS. 

The Superintendent’s Community Council, started by Polson Superintendent Sue McCormick and continued by present Superintendent Dave Whitesell, gathers community members for breakfast and an informational program on the Polson School District.

And it was the middle school’s turn on Jan. 21 at 8 a.m.

Counselors Kathy Fewlass and Rhonda Hinman oversee the Peer Counseling Program at PMS. The Peer Counseling Program has used peer mediation at the middle school for 18 years. 

“It’s a very important part of our program,” PMS Principal Brian Adam said.

Peer mediation is a conflict resolution program,” Hinman said. “With 570 kids in the middle school, do you think there are conflicts?”

It’s an honor to be selected for the Peer Counseling class, too, because only about 15 kids from the 8th grade class are chosen with input from the 7th grade teachers. The students are chosen by who they are as students and people and their overall caring. Then Hinman and Fewlass teach them how to deal with a conflict.

Fewlass and Hinman have students self-refer themselves or they might also get up a heads-up about a kid having problems from PMS principals, teachers and staff. Fewlass and Hinman tackle the tough issues; but a team of peer mediators can handle less severe conflicts, such as borrowing pencils without asking, gossiping, name calling on the playground, etc., if the students experiencing the problem agree. 

The kids also must agree to abide by the rules — 

no name-calling or put-downs, no physical fighting, no interrupting, be honest and speaking directly to the peer mediators instead of the other student. 

During the sample presented for the Superintendent’s Community Council, Alisha and Melina requested a mediation. Alisha threw a volleyball at Melina during gym and broke her glasses, plus the blow hurt Melina. Russell and Lytton were the two peer mediators. Russell asked Alisha’s to tell her side of the story then Lytton questioned Melina about what happened. 

Then Melina and Alisha took turns explaining what would make them happy and resolve the problem. 

In Melina’s case, she wanted an apology. Alisha wanted Melina to take off her glasses in gym class.

Both girls were required to write out their version and sign it. 

Lytton said sometimes it’s necessary to “split ‘em up if they don’t want to tell the problem with the other kid there.” 

The peer mediators check up on the squabblers in a week to make sure they’re still getting along, also 

Peer mediation class is one of the two electives allowed so the students spend 45 minutes each day in class plus mediations they may do outside of class. 

Polson City Manager Todd Crossett, who is a member of the Superintendent’s Community Council, said the students are learning absolutely key leadership skills.

“The experience you are gaining right now will take you a long ways,” Crossett explained.

Next month, the Superintendent Community Council will focus on Polson High School. 

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