Mediation Center teams up with anti-bullying program

Beaumont Children's Hospital's NoBLE anti-bullying program and the Oakland Mediation Center have teamed up to create a new mediation program for parents and schools to resolve issues related to bullying behavior.

The new Bullying Issues Mediation Program is believed to be the first of its kind the United States.

"Conversations around such a sensitive and emotional subject as bullying can be difficult for schools and families," says Dr. Marlene Seltzer, medical director of the NoBLE program of Beaumont Children's Hospital. "Mediation provides a neutral environment that is conducive to dialogue that helps build parent-school relationships. Through mediation, a plan can be created to stop the bullying and improve a child's school experience which can impact the outcome of that child's life."

Mediation is an alternative to the litigation process. It's a private, voluntary process where individuals have the opportunity to be heard, share different points of view, brainstorm options and negotiate a solution that meets everyone's needs. The mediator facilitates communication and promotes voluntary decision making as the parents and the school work through the process.

Participants in the mediation process would include parents or guardians of a child who is being bullied, or who is exhibiting bullying behavior; school representatives; a specially trained mediator from the Oakland Mediation Center with experience in bullying issues; and a bullying issues specialist (licensed master's social worker) from the NoBLE program.

"We are committed to the peaceful resolution of conflict through community mediation and education," says Bonnie Hanes, executive director, Oakland Mediation Center. "That is why this project with Beaumont's NoBLE program is so important in providing, promoting and teaching people safe ways to deal with bullying and contribute to a civil society."

Parents or schools can request mediation through the Oakland Mediation Center or NoBLE. A mediation specialist will gather information about the situation, contact the other parties to obtain consent for the use of services and schedule a mediation session.

The role of the mediator and the NoBLE representative is to remain neutral. All parties are given a chance to speak and share their point of view during the session. After carefully listening to everyone, the mediator and social worker work with both sides and discuss and record potential solutions. In most cases, everyone goes away with a better understanding and respect for each other while making significant progress in dealing with the bullying issue.

The initiating party pays a small fee to open a mediation case. When a mediation session is scheduled, both parties are responsible for contributing a total of $75. The mediation fee may be waived for those demonstrating an inability to pay. This makes the program available to everyone.

Mediation is not a legal process. There is no determination of right or wrong. It's a process where participants express concerns, explore options and adopt solutions together. As such, it is a low-cost alternative to litigation to resolve disputes between parents and schools in bullying situations.

Seltzer adds, "It's well known that bullying behavior seriously affects a child's psychological and social development, school work and overall health both short term and long term. We read far too often how bullying can lead to suicide and we have to keep searching for new ways to intervene before that happens."

For more information or to schedule a mediation appointment, contact Charity Burke, mediation manager, Oakland Mediation Center, at 248-338-4280, ext. 226.

Published: Fri, Mar 22, 2013