Honoring those who help keep the peace in school

By Melanie Deeds
Legal News

The Resolution Center has dispatched a sort of peace squad to various Macomb County high schools and the results, according to center director Craig Pappas, are exciting.

“These individuals have become a huge asset for the schools and are really doing what we think is ground-breaking work,” he said.

These six — Branden Banks, East Detroit High School; Sharron Baur, Fitzgerald High School; James Gillespie, East Detroit High School; David Gillis, New Haven High School; Eric Jackson, Clintondale High School; and Diana Carmichael Owens, Lincoln High School — are members of The Restorative Justice and Peer Mediation Team.

Because of the results they’ve achieved, they are being honored this month with the center’s Conflict Resolution Advocacy Award.

It will presented on Tuesday, March 26 at the annual “Evening at the Movies” fundraiser at the MJR Marketplace Sterling Heights Cinema.

“These folks, Restorative Justice coordinators, are facilitating restorative conferences, peace circles and administering the school’s peer mediation program,” said Pappas.

Restorative justice is a concept that addresses a conflict by putting focus on the people who were affected, according to Pappas, not on the rule that was broken.

The RJ Coordinators ultimately convene the students, often times the parents too, in a meeting for a discussion focusing on what happened, who has been affected and how, and what needs to happen to resolve the situation.

“This meeting and understanding that is reached is then summarized in a written agreement,” Pappas said.

The cases often come in the form of a referral from principals, assistant principals and counselors  as the results of fights, thefts, loud shouting matches, typically issues that would
get a kid suspended, according to Pappas.

For years, he said, schools have taken the approach of getting rid of a problem with an action such as suspension versus addressing the problem so it doesn’t continue.

Pappas cited recent research that a school’s suspension rate is directly related to its graduation rate.

“So if we can offer an alternative to perpetual suspensions, we can be a tool in helping raise the graduation rates,” Pappas said. “We are thankful to the school administrators and our staff for being given the opportunity to do this work right here in Macomb County.”

He credited The United Way for Southeast Michigan and the Michigan Department of Education for their support of the initiative.

It’s the second year in a row the center has honored those who focus on settling disputes involving youth.

Last year, Warren Consolidated Schools received the Conflict Resolution Advocacy Award for its dispute resolution program.

One of the coordinators, David Gillis, also is being honored by the center as one of its Volunteers of the Year.

Prior to last September, when Gillis was hired to work at New Haven, he “volunteered a tremendous amount of time mediating all types of cases ranging from our district court small claims and general civil cases, neighborhood matters to circuit court cases,” Pappas said.

“He always made himself available,” Pappas said, “conducted himself in a very professional manner and represented the center with class.”

Gillis was selected for the volunteer honor because of “his willingness to develop and take on the challenge at New Haven and the compassion and true desire to help out the students,” Pappas said.

Sharing Volunteer of the Year honors is Sue Kwapik, who has been mediating at the Mount Clemens-based center for almost five years.

Pappas said Kwapik, an accountant, “has spent personal time and money to advance her skill set as a mediator by getting qualified under the domestic mediation court rules as well as for victim offender mediation.”

“Sue works full time in the accounting field, however continues to carve out time to mediate for families and kids,” Pappas said.

He said Kwapik is always willing “to take on the tough cases, mentor new mediators, and be flexible with our staff when trying to schedule mediations.”

The Resolution Center has been providing mediation as an out-of-court alternative to resolving disputes since 1993.

Overall, Pappas said, 2012 was the center’s busiest year “by far.”

Of the 1,475 cases that were opened, almost 1,200 were mediated. Pappas said 3,222 people were served with an agreement rate of 70 percent.

Tickets for the “Evening at the Movies” fundraiser are $50 per person or $200 for five.

The event, which begins at  5:30 p.m., features appetizers from area restaurants and caterers along with wine and beer as well as admission to a movie, popcorn and a soft drink.

For additional information, contact the center at 586.469.4714 or visit www.theresolutioncenter.com


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