When East Millbrook school officials started sensing tension among their students they brought in Professor Jon Powell and the Campbell Law School Juvenile Justice Project which he leads. The Campbell Law School Juvenile Justice Project is a group of Campbell law students who work with Wake County school children to help them resolve conflicts. The Project partners with several Wake County middle and high schools and is funded through the Campbell University Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law.
An anonymous eighth grader at East Millbrook complained that students just “didn’t get along.” “It was like he-she said stuff.” The law school mediators focused on the harm that had been done and how that harm could be addressed in a positive way. Mediators first talk to the students separately, then together, to help keep a conflict from escalating into a fight. Professor Powell and the law students’ goal is to get both sides to understand the root of the problems so it doesn’t build up again. “We just worked it out that day” said the eighth grade student.
The Campbell Law School Juvenile Justice Project has dealt with about 80 cases in the last school year. In the last ten years 95% of the students who completed the mediation didn’t offend again. A vice principal at East Millbrook said that the students behavior after the program was “calmer, not necessarily best friends but at peace.”
One of the major changes in the practice of law over the past twenty years has been the increased use of mediation to resolve conflicts. Practically every NC automobile accident, personal injury or workers’ compensation case that is filed is ordered to mediation. There are many NC personal injury lawyers who now limit their practice to working as a mediator. And most NC automobile accident lawyers spend more time in mediation that in trial.
So it’s probably a good idea to start training lawyers in law school to mediate conflict. And I guess if they can mediate a middle school spat they can mediate anything.