Conflict resolution program makes difference in Anne Arundel schools

conflict resolutionEarly reports show that a pilot program in several Anne Arundel County high schools is improving students' conflict resolution skills and helping them become better students and leaders. As a result, the program is expanding.

The Conflict Resolution Center of Anne Arundel County has partnered with the county public school system since last spring to bring conflict resolution courses to area schools. The program began at Annapolis High School and expanded to Glen Burnie High School in March. Similar programs for younger students will begin at Belle Grove Elementary and Meade Middle School this spring.

The eight-week workshop focuses on mediation and anger management, as well as public speaking and listening skills. Teachers and administrators at Annapolis High identify students they think would benefit from the program.

Through group work and discussions, the students learn how the five different approaches of conflict resolution — compete, compromise, accommodate, avoid and collaborate — can affect everyday decisions.

“A lot of students, particularly ones that have social challenges at home, must deal with adult-like situations from a very young age, but they are not equipped to handle these situations,” Booth says. “When they go to school, they are less engaged, and may not be meeting their full academic potential. We want to give students the tools to be able to resolve conflicts and to communicate more effectively with parents, teachers and peers.”

The program at Annapolis High School is still in its pilot phase, but has seen success in its early stages, according to Brandon Booth, CRC assistant executive director. Graduates of the workshop report feeling more confident in their relationships with parents and friends, while teachers say the students are more engaged academically, Booth says.

“So many conflicts are simply the result of a miscommunication,” Booth says. “Through these workshops, we are hoping to give students the tools to successfully cope with whatever challenges they may encounter."

According to a study by the U.S. Department of Justice, integrating conflict resolution programs in schools can reduce aggressive behavior, enhance self-esteem and provide lifelong decision-making skills for students.

For more information about the CRC’s program in area schools, visit the website at aacrc.info.

By Katie Riley