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Racial Conflict Simulation:
A High School Halloween Party

Brian's Scenario

Part One: Dealing with The Immediate Situation

Things to think about: (Note: Not all of the answers to the questions are given in the story. You will need to fill in details using your background knowledge of similar circumstances and your imagination. Also, please be aware that we did not have enough money when we built this to write different stories depending on how you answer. So if you are the principal, for example, you may say that you want to mediate, but then read on to find out that the principal did not choose to mediate. Please don't think we are ignoring you or that the principal or the story is "stupid." We had to make people do some "stupid" things, or else there would not have been a conflict for you to puzzle over. Stick with it, and decide what you should do at each step along the way, even if some of the "turns" could have been avoided, had we "listened to you in the first place." You will get feedback on your answers when you turn this in to your instructor.)

  1. Who are the parties involved in the conflict so far? (List them in the box below.) (Click here for more information on parties.) (Click here for information on "interests.")

  2. What do you think their interests might be? (List them to the right of their names, below.)

    List parties here:List their interests here:
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  3. What are your interests?

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  4. What, if anything, do you think you should do as student body president to address this situation?

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Part Two: Rising Tension

The tension at Agnew increases and minor violence (such as fights) continues, so Principal Edwards cracks down. He brings in more resource officers and suspends more students. Going to school has become unbearable. The resource officers have reduced the number of fights at school, but not the tension level. Worse, the fights haven't actually stopped; they've just moved off of school grounds and become more violent. You are frustrated. You see yourself as an easygoing guy, and you usually get along with everyone. You and Sara aren't close, but you like her. Still, you can't understand why she chose to make such a big deal out of this. You've never seen any examples of racism at Agnew, except for the blackface photos, and those were just a stupid joke. Now, because Sara has pushed this so far, the whole school is in an uproar over nothing. You've never thought that Sara was one of those people who do outrageous things just to get attention, but now you're not so sure.

You hear a rumor that a group of Agnew students and parents, including Sara and her family, have formed a group and are trying to get Principal Edwards fired. The local liberal weekly picks up the story, and begins to publish stories about Agnew's racial conflict.

Questions to think about:

  1. Is firing Principal Edwards a good way to resolve this conflict? Why or why not? (Click here for advice.)

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  2. Do you have any other ideas? Which one would you choose and why?

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Now you are downright angry. You stop talking to Sara at all. How far is she going to push this? Principal Edwards is a good principal. He cares about the kids, he's fair, and most of the students, parents, and teachers like him, which couldn't be said of his predecessor. He definitely doesn't deserve to be fired over a Halloween costume at an off-campus party.

Principal Edwards' response to the story is to hold an all-school assembly on racism. You go, because you support Edwards, but you think it is dumb. You're not racist and you haven't talked to any kids at Agnew who are — even Matt and Jeff. The assembly is poorly attended, and doesn't do anything to change attitudes at school, at least as far as you can see.

When you hear a rumor that Principal Edwards has agreed to work with a mediator, you don't pay much attention. You don't think it has anything to do with you.

Question to think about:

  • If you are asked to participate in the mediation, will you? Why or why not? (To read more about mediation, click here.)

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Part Three: Considering Options

You hear that Sara's group has started calling themselves Citizens Against Racism at Agnew (CARA). To your surprise, you also hear that they have agreed to participate in the mediation.

You want to do something to ease some of the tension at school, but you haven't come up with any good ideas. You brought it up at the last student council meeting, but nobody was very interested in the idea. All of the kids on student council are white, and they couldn't even think of any examples of racism at Agnew. You dropped the subject.

A week later, you get a call from a woman named Ana Flores. She tells you she is the mediator working on the conflict at Agnew. She tells you that she has already spoken with Principal Edwards and CARA and that they have agreed to participate in mediation. But, she feels the white students and parents also need to be represented as well. You invite her to the next student council meeting. At the meeting, Ana asks the council how you feel about the recent conflict at Agnew. You stand up and say:

I was at the party on Halloween and I think the guys that took those pictures are idiots. They in no way represent the majority of the white kids at this school. Still, I don't really know what the big deal is about the photos. I like Sara, but I think she and the dance team are being too politically correct. Now, everybody is in a big uproar over nothing. I hate going to school because it's gotten so tense. We can't even have a discussion in class without things getting out of control. I wish Sara hadn't made this into such a big issue.

The rest of the council agrees with you. Ana says that she has spoken to Sara and the other members of CARA, and that they are very angry, and have been for a long time. They are going to start discussions with Principal Edwards on how to address their concerns. However, Ana says she thinks it's very important that the white students at Agnew also have a say in the discussions.

She explains the mediation process, saying that all of the participating parties will identify the issues involved in this conflict, create an agenda for addressing them, and hopefully come to an agreement. Along the way, she hopes that the parties will learn to communicate more effectively with each other, and better understand the conflict.

She also says that she has been successful with similar conflicts in the past. She asks you whether you or anyone else you know would like to be involved.

Things to think about:

  1. Do you think mediation is a good idea? Why or why not? (Click here for advice.)

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  2. What are the benefits?

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  3. What are the costs?

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  4. What alternatives do you have if you don't mediate? (Click here for advice.)

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  5. What are the advantages and disadvantages of your alternatives? (Click here for advice.)

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  6. Fill out the following chart:

    OptionBenefitsCostsBalance?
    1. ________________________________________________y or n
    2. ________________________________________________y or n
    3. ________________________________________________y or n
    4. ________________________________________________y or n
    5. ________________________________________________y or n
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Part Four: Getting Organized

You volunteer, as do two of the other kids on council (both of whom are white). You also suggest some of your friends who have voiced an interest in doing something about the conflict. Ana asks you to invite your parents to come, too. She then asks if there is anyone else you can think of who should be involved.

"Well, there's Matt and Jeff, but I doubt they'll agree to participate. They are the ones who dressed up in blackface and posted their pictures on the Internet. But they still think this is all a ridiculous over-reaction. They aren't sorry about it at all, I don't think."

A few days later, you run into Matt and Jeff in the halls. They ask you if you're planning to participate in the mediation process. You tell them that you are, and they start laughing, making fun of the whole thing. You laugh at their jokes, but you're a little worried. You liked Ana and feel like maybe Matt and Jeff shouldn't be participating. Maybe you shouldn't have told her to contact them.

In the meantime, though, Ana gives you some questions to think about:

  1. What are your goals for the mediation? (Click here for advice.)

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  2. What are your interests at this point? Have they changed from before?

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  3. Who do you think should be involved in this mediation? (Click here for advice.)

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  4. Are there any people who should NOT be involved in the mediation? Why not?

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Part Five: Preparing for Mediation

To prepare for the mediation, you talk to some of your friends about what kinds of changes they would like to see in the school. Like you, they are just concerned about returning to business as usual. They don't like the increase in fights and tension at school, and they're a little confused about what's going on. Also like you, they don't see Agnew as a racist school. They're wondering what the big deal is.

Ana sets up a meeting with you and the rest of the white students and parents. She asks you what the issues are in this conflict. Everybody comes to consensus quickly. You want to make Agnew a safe and comfortable place to go to school. She asks for suggestions about changes that might help make that happen, and writes them down on a big flip-chart, posting the pages on the wall. At the end, you come up with a few ideas that might be promising, and Ana asks if she can share your ideas with the other groups. You say that that would be fine.

She calls another meeting the next week, and informs you of the other parties' goals. She tells you that Principal Edwards would like CARA to be able to understand his perspective, and that he wants them to agree to stop disrupting school. He would also like to change Agnew's reputation as a racist school.

CARA has three goals. They would like the school administration to take complaints about racism more seriously. They also feel that if students at Agnew had a better understanding of the history of slavery in the United States, that they would understand why dressing up in blackface with nooses and the KKK was so offensive. Finally, they believe that a higher number of minority students are being suspended than white students, and they would like to make sure that punishments are being handed out fairly.

Questions to consider:

  1. What are the underlying issues in this conflict at this time? Have they changed from before? (Click here for information on identifying issues.)

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  2. Do you think the other groups' goals for the mediation are reasonable? Why or why not? (Click here for information on goals.)

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  3. Do you see any areas of common ground? (Click here for ideas on commonalities.)

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  4. Ana told you that mediation makes everyone at the table "equal," but it seems to you that the school administration still has much more power than anyone else. Do you care? Is there anything you can do to even the playing field? What? (Click here for suggestions from mediators about leveling the playing field, and/or read this essay on "empowerment.")

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  5. Ana has asked you to prepare an opening statement, in which you describe your view of the problem and what you would like to see done to correct it. Draft that opening statement below:

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  6. What can you do to make the mediation successful? What do you expect Ana to do? (For a wonderful list of ways people "do themselves in" in mediation, and how to avoid such mistakes, click here.)

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Part Six: Mediation Begins

Ana brings all of the parties together the following week, after school. She thanks everyone for coming, and again explains what mediation is and how it works. She then asks the participants to help her establish some ground rules for the discussion.

Question to Consider:

  • What ground rules would you suggest? (Click here for advice. Also see the Ground Rules essay on BeyondIntractability.org.)

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You agree on things like speaking respectfully and keeping the mediation proceedings confidential. Ana then asks the dance team students to explain the problem as they see it, focusing on their interests, not just their positions. Sara stands up to speak.

When I saw those pictures, I felt sick. It would have been one thing if it were just one incident, but we've put up with a lot. I've been called a "nigger" several times, but when I tell a teacher about it, nothing happens. A couple of guys on the football team think its funny to make racist jokes and pinch black girls' butts. When they do stuff like that in class, nobody stands up to them, including the teachers. They just tell them to settle down. Plus, the curriculum at this school is a joke. We spent months talking about the Holocaust, but they just glossed over slavery. I feel like nobody will listen to me or cares about my history or my concerns. Principal Edwards told me to write a letter to the school newspaper, but that was just a way to shut me up — nobody reads that thing. I'm not sorry for what I did, even if I did get suspended. It was the only way I could get people to pay attention to what I had to say.

Ana asks Sara what changes she would like to see made in order to address these problems. She answers that she and other CARA members would like complaints about racism to be taken more seriously, and the perpetrators to be harshly punished. She also wants black and Latino history to take a much more prominent role in history classes. Finally, she says, a much higher number of minority students are being suspended than white students, and students of color are being punished more often and more harshly overall than are white students. This discrimination must stop, she asserts.

When she is finished, other members of CARA get up and speak. People talk about a history of racism at Agnew, beginning when the school was integrated in the '60s and continuing to the present. After awhile, the discussion begins to stray onto racism in the wider city — things like racial profiling and police brutality. You are surprised to hear what they're saying. When you think about it, you do remember people telling racist jokes in class. At the time, you had just blown it off. You are beginning to see that Sara's and CARA's concerns run much deeper than you thought.

Then you catch a glimpse of Principal Edwards. He looks noticeably irritated and is tapping his fingers on the table. Again, you are surprised. You don't understand why he's angry.

"Can we move on? These comments are irrelevant," Principal Edwards suddenly blurts out.

Sara's mother stands up.

"You see, this is exactly the problem," she says. "You won't listen to a word we say. Even now that we've finally gotten your attention, you're trying to shut us up. There is a problem in this school and in this city, and you need to face up to it."

"Look, I'm sorry I said that," Principal Edwards says. "Of course, I want to deal with anything that's bothering you; that's my job. But the things you're bringing up happened before I became principal at Agnew, and the issue of racism in the police department is nothing I have control over. I want to make changes, but I do not want to endlessly rehash past events. There's nothing anyone can do to change those things. Plus, how can we know how much of what you're saying is true? These stories are not verifiable."

Sara stands up and begins yelling. Soon, more people are standing and yelling. The students and parents of color say they need to be heard. The other white students and parents in your group say they just want to "get on with things." Finally, Ana calls a recess. She asks everyone to try to calm down and to come back in 30 minutes.

Questions to consider:

  1. What is the role of emotion in conflict?

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  2. Should Ana (the mediator) have allowed this much anger to be expressed during the mediation? (Click here for information on dealing with anger in the mediation process, and click here for information on anger and anger management more generally.)

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  3. Would it have helped if the principal had suppressed his anger more than he did?

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  4. Could you have done anything to improve the situation, or was that not your role?

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During the break, Ana pulls you aside and says that the parents and students from CARA are very angry and have been for a long time, and that they've never gotten a chance to express that anger. She assures you that after they get a chance to speak and they feel listened to, then you'll be able to have your turn. That is okay with you, though you hope that this process speeds up pretty soon.

Questions to consider:

  1. When it is your turn to speak, are you going to respond to some of these issues, or go on with your planned statement?

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  2. Are there ways that you could reframe your interests to make them more palatable to CARA? (To learn more about reframing, see this essay and these comments by experienced civil rights mediators.)

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  3. How might CARA reframe their interests to make them more acceptable to you?

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When everybody reconvenes, CARA says that they are done speaking.

Ana then asks you to speak. You say:

We strongly disagree with the photos that were taken on Halloween. Those photos in no way represent how the majority of the students or parents at the school feel. Still, I feel that we need to let that incident go. It was a one-time thing. The boys who did it have apologized, and now it is time to move forward. The tension at Agnew has gotten out of control. We've always had "cliques," but now the racial lines are much stronger and hostile. I think it's time to do something about this.

When Ana asks what you think should be done, you say that you don't know, but that you think maybe some more multi-racial activities might be good. You say that you are open to any other ideas that come up during the discussion, but that you don't have anything more to add at this point.

Then it is Principal Edwards' turn. He says:

I realize how wrong it was for those students to dress up in blackface, but my hands are tied. I can't punish students for incidents that occur off of school grounds. Ultimately, I agree with the sentiments that the dance team expressed, but I can't allow students to cause disturbances. The pep rally could have gotten out of control, and someone could have gotten hurt. If they wanted to protest, they could have used another means, such as writing an article in the school newspaper or picketing. Although I understand that the blackface photos were entirely unacceptable, it was only one incident caused by a couple of misguided kids.

I appreciate the concerns of the students and parents of color, but I do not believe that their assertions are correct. We take great care in handing out discipline fairly. While it is true that students of color are suspended more often than others, that is because they violate school rules more often than others. We do cover black and Latino history in our history classes as much as we have time for, given all of the other requirements, and we take racism very seriously in this school. That is why we are doing this mediation, as a matter of fact.

Part Seven: Fact-Finding

A week later, you all meet again in the same room. People still seem on edge, but Ana takes control quickly. She reviews the key concerns of each group, reframing some of them to make them more palatable and understandable to the other side. Each time she goes over one side's list, she asks whether they agree with her restatement of their concerns and suggestions, and they discuss each one until everyone is in agreement.

The only issue that cannot be agreed upon is the one dealing with unequal discipline. The administration insists that discipline is handled fairly, while CARA is certain that it is not. Ana suggests hiring an outside, neutral expert to investigate the question. There is considerable discussion about who to get to do the research. The mediator suggests a consultant who has worked with her on other cases, and everyone agrees that person would be acceptable to them. Ana says she'll give her a call. "Usually, she can get started pretty soon," Ana offers.

Questions to consider: (Click here for advice on fact-finding from civil rights mediators.)

  1. What does a fact-finding consultant need to do in order to make his or her findings credible to both sides? (See this set of essays for more general information on fact-finding.)

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  2. Are there other approaches to fact-finding, besides hiring an outside consultant? What are they?

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  3. Are there other facts in this case that ought to be investigated further by a consultant or other fact-finding method? If so, what are they?

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  4. How might you design a fact-finding effort on that/those topic(s)?

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Part Eight: Brainstorming Options

The outside expert comes back with the results of her research and says that discipline does seem to be pretty evenly distributed between racial groups at the school. Nevertheless, she suggests, more might be done to involve students and parents in the disciplinary process, perhaps thereby giving it more credibility.

Ana suggests that you consider that option, along with others, and explains that now that the problems have been identified and analyzed, the next step for the group is to consider options for resolving the identified problems.

"There are two ways that we can do this," Ana says. "We can all work together, taking each issue, one at a time," Ana says. "Or, we could break into subgroups, and have each subgroup work intensely on one set of issues."

You discuss the pros and cons of each approach, and pretty quickly decide that the subgroup approach would be more efficient.

Ana suggests that you divide into working groups to develop options for a variety of problems. These problems include:

  1. Discipline: How discipline can be carried out in both a fair way, and in a way that is viewed as fair by all of the parties involved.

  2. Understanding: How inter-racial understanding can be improved at the school.

  3. Curriculum: How the curriculum can be modified so that students of color feel as if they are included in the curriculum.

  4. Response: How the school should respond to future racial incidents, if and when they occur.

What options can you identify for each one of these questions? (Think of as many options as possible, without making any value judgments.) (For help, see Option Identification.)

  1. Discipline:

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  2. Understanding:

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  3. Curriculum:

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  4. Response:

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Part Nine: Assessing Options

After the working groups brainstorm lists of options, Ana asks each group to discuss the costs and benefits of each option and to come up with a preferred option, along with a second choice to present to the larger group. This proves to be a difficult task, as people assess the likely costs and benefits of the options very differently. For example, one option suggested by people in the curriculum subgroup is to greatly decrease the emphasis on white migration to and expansion through America in U.S. history and literature courses, and spend much more time focusing on Native American, Hispanic, and African American history, and the role of heroes and writers of color in shaping the United States and its literature. White parents oppose this suggestion, saying that it would cost a lot of money because it would require the purchase of new books and additional training for teachers. The white parents also fear that emphasis would come at the expense of teaching the material that would be tested on standardized tests, therefore jeopardizing their students' chances of getting into top colleges and/or getting advanced placement credit from standardized "AP" or "IB" tests. After several weeks however, and some consultations with district financial officers, all of the groups are able to come up with a list of preferred and secondary options to bring forward to the whole group.

Do your best to assess the costs and benefits of each of the options you listed above. (For assistance, see Costing.)

  1. Discipline:

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  2. Understanding:

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  3. Curriculum:

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  4. Response:

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Part Ten: Another Incident

It is now the week before the state football game. The mediation seems to be going well, but it has not come up with firm recommendations yet. Student emotions are still high, and you are nervous about a possible repeat of the earlier pep rally disturbance.

After school on Thursday, when most of the students have left for the day, a group of white students and a group of Latino students start yelling at each other in the halls. As the fight escalates, one of the Latino students flashes a knife. The school police officers have left for the day, but a security guard sees the exchange on the security cameras and rushes in. With the help of a janitor, he breaks up the fight quickly, but due to his inexperience, he uses too much force. He maces several of the kids and the janitor manhandles several others. No one is seriously hurt, but many suffer minor injuries, some from the fight itself, and others from the security guard's and janitor's actions.

When news of the fight gets out, parents and students on both sides are outraged. White parents say the school isn't doing enough to protect students from dangerous "gangs." They point out that this is the second weapon found in the school this year. On the other hand, the Latino parents say that white students are repeatedly ambushing and attacking their children. They complain that when fights break out, the authorities either treat both sides as if they had an equal part in starting the fight or they treat the Latinos like the aggressors. The Latino parents have been unaware of the mediation. Most of them speak only Spanish and aren't well connected with the school or aware of school events.

When Ana reconvenes the mediation group the next day, everyone is angry. The white parents are angry, because they feel like their students are no longer safe at school. The minority parents are angry, because they feel like their students were never safe at school. The students are angry, because they feel that the school is getting more and more dangerous, yet they are required to attend. You feel stuck in the middle, which makes you angry. Whenever the group tries to start a discussion, it breaks down into yelling. Soon, several people are crying. Ana calls a break.

Questions to Consider:

  1. Should the mediator try to control the anger in the room?

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  2. How might she do that? Click here for suggestions.

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  3. Do you want to continue the mediation? Why or why not?

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  4. Has yesterday's incident changed your goals at all?

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  5. What needs to be done differently now?

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While everyone is on break, Ana meets with some of the group members individually and tries to calm them down. When the group reconvenes, Ana reminds everyone why you are all there, and of the ground rules that you set in the first session. You begin the dialogue again, but there is still a lot of tension in the room. Everyone decides that they should invite some of the Spanish-speaking parents to the next meeting, and hire a translator so that those parents can participate.

Part Eleven: Restoring Confidence

At the next meeting, four of the Spanish-speaking families show up. Ana asks them to tell their stories. One woman says that it was her sons who were the ones attacked by a group of white students with baseball bats. So the story is true. The woman says that her sons have had problems since they started at Agnew. She says that in that case, which occurred outside of school, her sons were treated as the aggressors. Several other women from the group tell similar stories.

You had heard this story, but it had been told and retold so many times, that you weren't sure if it was true or not. You thought it was just some kids bragging. You are deeply disturbed, and Principal Edwards looks disturbed as well. He asks the women a lot of questions about the incidents. Then he sits quietly for several moments. He tells the women that he feels awful that their children were treated so badly. He apologizes to them. When he has finished speaking, the tension has dissipated a bit.

That night, some parents and students from both sides gather for a spontaneous candlelight vigil on the lawn in front of the school. People make speeches about promoting harmony at Agnew, and learning to listen to each other. Although only a small group attends the vigil, the event is widely publicized. On the front page of the newspaper the next morning, there are lovely pictures of the vigil, instead of the usual stories of the latest crisis at Agnew.

Questions to Consider:

  1. Apology is a powerful tool for reconciling parties in conflict. What elements are needed for an apology to be effective? (For information on apologies, click here.)

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  2. Is there anything you might be able to say or do to defuse the tension and try to get people working together in a positive way? Or, do you feel that that is not your role? (See advice from civil rights mediators about how they defuse things (though admittedly, they can do things that you, as a party, cannot do.) See also the more general information about de-escalation and trust building.)

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  3. Can you think of anything Ana (the mediator) should have done differently in this session?

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Part Twelve: The Walkout

Once the working groups come up with their first and second choice options, Ana has everyone reconvene, and asks that each group present their options — along with their cost and benefit assessment — to the whole group. As the presentations are being made, you notice Sara watching Matt and Jeff, the two white students who took and posted the blackface pictures. Matt has been staring into space, and Jeff's head has been bobbing as he fights off sleep.

"Why are you two here?" Sara asks them. "I never wanted you involved in the first place, because I thought you would treat this whole process as a joke. You've treated this whole thing as if it's unimportant. I don't think you've heard a word anybody has said. You've only come to less than a fourth of the meetings. I don't feel like I can talk to you. I don't understand why you agreed to participate in this. Why don't you just leave? Nobody cares if you're here."

You are surprised at Sara's outburst, but you agree with her. Matt and Jeff make fun of the mediation in school, sometimes breaking the rules of confidentiality. You realize that you should have said something to Ana, but you didn't want to make Matt or Jeff into your enemies. Neither of them have really contributed anything to the mediation, and you're not sure if they've gotten anything out of it.

The room is silent. Neither Matt nor Jeff knows how to respond. They stare at Sara blankly. Then they look at Ana for guidance. She cocks her head.

"I guess that's a fair question," Ana says. "Why did you two agree to participate in the mediation?"

"We want to do everything we can to make up for what we did," Matt says.

"That's not true," Sara says. "I've heard you say things at school. You think that I'm overreacting. You don't think that what you did was that bad. But you are the ones who started this whole thing. If you can't understand what's going on here, then I don't have any hope of this conflict ever being resolved."

After another silence, Jeff begins to talk again.

"Fine, if you want to push the issue, which you always seem to want to do, I don't understand why we're here either. I hate sitting around talking about my feelings all day. It's like those corny games you play at summer camp. And you're wrong. I do understand why what I did was wrong. But you're also right. I do think you're overreacting. You're always playing the victim, Sara. I didn't beat anyone with a baseball bat. I just did something that I thought would be funny that you and your friends didn't think was so funny."

Sara flashes back, "That's your problem, Jeff. You can't seem to understand that anyone in the world has a different perspective from yours. You make those stupid jokes in class and you have no idea what you're talking about, what the history is behind what you're saying."

"That's kind of true," you say meekly. "You haven't really participated in this, Jeff."

"This is B.S.," Jeff says, standing up. "If you want me to leave, then I'll leave."

Matt looks confused, but after a few minutes, he follows Jeff, and they both walk out.

The two boys don't come back to mediation. Ana says that she has spoken to them and that they aren't interested. They don't feel that they have any reason to return. She asks if everyone wants to continue the mediation. Matt and Jeff were not the only representatives of the white students. There are still about four other white students and parents participating in the mediation. Everyone agrees to continue.

Questions to Consider: (For advice, click here.)

  1. Do you think Sara should have targeted Matt and Jeff?

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  2. Was there a better way to do it, that would have been more effective?

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  3. Is there anything Ana could have done to get them to return?

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  4. Is there anything you could have done to de-escalate the situation before Matt and Jeff walked out? Afterwards?

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  5. Do you think their presence in the mediation mattered one way or the other?

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  6. What goals does this mediation need to fulfill in order for you to feel that it's successful? (To see how mediators measure "success," click here.)

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Part Thirteen: Conclusion

After six months of hard work, the group manages to reach a conclusion upon which everyone agrees. A new disciplinary committee is to be formed, made up of administrators, teachers, parents, and students, who will review disciplinary issues and trends on an ongoing basis. You have agreed to participate on that committee. More cross-racial activities will be encouraged, and the English and history curricula will be examined, in an effort to identify more material about or written by people of color. No firm decision is made about how much of this to include or what to cut, but the group agrees to continue to investigate options, and to make suggestions to the school and the school board before textbook orders are placed for the following year. Though you will not be involved in this effort, you have agreed that the student council will work to put together a committee to do this, which would be an extension of the Curriculum committee that met during the mediation.

In addition, CARA actually manages to get a grant from a private donor to establish an ombudsman office and a peer mediation program at Agnew. You hope that these programs will reduce the perception of racism at Agnew, and help to diminish the tension between students. Finally, as a group, you have put together a statement about Agnew's commitment to respect and diversity, which you hope will help guide future programs and decisions.

Each working group agrees to write part of a report that assesses the problems identified in the mediation, and describes the options considered and ultimately chosen for addressing those problems. The groups are given two weeks to do this, the reports are circulated, and changes are suggested. Ana compiles everything into a draft final report, which she distributes to the entire group. You review it carefully, and feel that it is fair and well-done. The group meets one last time, and after suggesting a few minor changes, everyone agrees to sign off on it. Principal Edwards schedules an all-school assembly for the beginning of the following week, to present the report to the school body. He also sends out a note to all parents and a letter to the city newspaper, explaining the process and giving an Internet URL where the report will be posted online. Everyone goes out to dinner together after this final meeting, and the atmosphere is warm and celebratory.

For you, the most important result of the mediation process has been increasing the communication between you, the administration, and the members of CARA. While communication was almost non-existent before the mediation, you now feel comfortable talking with Principal Edwards and Brian. You feel as if you finally are being listened to and respected.

When you visit Agnew on a break from college two years later, everything is still not perfect, but there are some major improvements. The number of fights has decreased substantially, and the minority population has risen after Agnew lost its reputation as a racist school. The tension in the halls is gone. All in all, you are satisfied with the process and think that it resulted in a better school for everyone.


Copyright © 2000-2007
by Conflict Management Initiatives and the Conflict Information Consortium at the University of Colorado