Did you assist them by phone only? What types of assistance did you provide? Can you provide an example?


Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Have you ever managed a case over the phone and not gone onsite and yet provided some assistance?

Answer:
Yes, because during the civil unrest when I was working with the Korean community, I got a call about a riot in a school in Long Beach. The principal says, "Steve, I need you now." I said, "I can't come now. I'm tied up." And she said, "But we've just had a riot, this racial group and that racial group fought on campus during lunch and I don't know what to do. We've suspended so many, but the students are coming back soon. We've still got a lot of tension." I actually prescribed a strategy over the phone to the principal. We talked every evening about where we were. I tell this story all the time because it's amazing. I talk about it in terms of how we can trust kids and when they give their word they mean it. When problems occur, we've got to figure out ways to really empower students to be a part of the solution. What I told this principal was, "Do you know the players, do you know the real players that were involved in this altercation?" She said, "Yes, between the counselors and security, we know who the players are." I said, "Okay, bring them in, one by one. Tell them, you need their help. Tell them 'I want to make sure that we bring this school back together, and I need your help. Will you help me?' You're the principal of the school." And she said, "Oh yeah, just bring them in one by one?" I said, "Yes, see if you can get them to support you." "What happens if they don't?" she asked. "Keep them on suspension."So I called her that evening and she said, "Steve, every one of them gave their word. It's amazing, these are great kids." I said, "Yeah, they are. Have you never met them before?' She said, "Now what do I do?" I said, 'Ok, they're keeping their word, they're helping to keep things calm?" She said, "Yeah they are, but I don't think I can just leave it like this." I said, "Now that they've made a commitment to you, you can bring them together as a group. So bring the Samoan kids in. Remind them they've already made their commitment, that they've individually given their word so that peer pressure doesn't take them to another level. Then talk to them about how we need you all to control not only yourselves as individuals, but also others to help diffuse the tension here. Then bring in the other group and do the same thing." So she talked to them and she said, "They all agree, we're all on the same page. Things are still okay." I said, "You still have some kids on suspension?" "Well, they're coming in," she said, "they're giving me their word." I said, "Ok, you're moving along. Now, you need to decide when, but at some point we can bring them together and we can get them to figure out what the issues are, and to problem solve it and come to some solution on this. Are you comfortable with that?" This is about a week into it. She says, "Well, they've kept their word so far, and I've gotten to know them, and I know the leadership pretty well and they really are working with me." I said, "Then you're ready, bring them together. Let's go."So I did it all on the phone over a series of a week. She and a couple of counselors worked through that whole process with the kids. We did it by phone. There's just no way I could have been there.






Edward Howden


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Did you often handle cases over the phone alone, without going on-site?

Answer:
Oh no. I can't even think of one such case, and certainly not a formal mediation case. But I think CRS people got quite a bit done over the phone. They didn't try to avoid going on-site if there were any dollars in the till to get on a plane, and I might add there were some times the dollars were not in the till. There were some terrible cutback times. There was one period when there was not any travel money in our regional office and I said frankly so to the BIA office and to the tribal chairperson that we had enough money that I could get part way there by plane, but not all the way. So they sent a car out to the point where I had to get off the plane and we went the other sixty, eighty miles by car to the tribe and we got that case taken care of. We kept working no thanks to the then political administration.




Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
How many people then do you contact by phone before you go on-site?

Answer:
Anywhere from one to a dozen, depending on a variety of circumstances. You might never get on-site or it may take a while to do so. You usually don't know whether you are going on-site until you have the information and then can place it in the context of your other priorities, the budget, your schedule, and your personal factors will inevitably come into it, even though we don't like to talk about it. You know, if you had a long weekend vacation planned you might try to put it off for a week. It depends on how critical the situation is.

Question:
Are there certain situations where you prefer to talk to people in person rather then on the phone to do the assessment?

Answer:
That was not feasible. The assessment, by necessity, has to start on the phone unless someone walks into your office or you are in their community. Typically it starts on the phone and at a certain point it continues on-site if the case warrants it. After talking to the person or people involved in the matter and making some preliminary judgements, you might give them some initial advice. I'd suggest you talk to the assistant principal and call me back. If he is unaware that this is happening in the classroom and this teacher is doing this to your child, here are some things you might do to move this forward. Here are some people locally you might call, someone we know we'd refer them to. Or depending on the state of the matter I might call the assistant principal, or the school superintendent. Very often when talking to establishment officials I would start at the top with my Justice Department credentials to get their attention and worry them a bit. They seldom want the Justice Department to come into their school, police department or community. Many people with grievances do, but no public official wants anyone from the Justice Department coming in. So we don't say this is a Community Relations Service mediator governed by a confidentially clause. We say, "this is the Justice Department. So, we would have to be careful in determining who to call first and let them know we are coming in. We wouldn't start with the assistant principal. We might call the principal or the superintendent of schools and say we've heard there is a problem at the George Washington School, and there have been some protests, we're wondering if we can be of any help. We offer our services and ask if we can be of assistance and try to get some information.




Stephen Thom


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

I always insist on meeting the parties face-to-face. When I make my initial contacts, I try to minimize the amount of talking I do on the phone, and I try to explain what CRS is, what our intentions are, and that I am a mediator and will attempt to resolve whatever conflicts are out there.





Leo Cardenas


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Did you sometimes just handle things over the phone, or say, "Well, why don't you call this other agency and let them help you?"

Answer:
A lot. Every situation that we identify as a potential dispute, we go through this system we call an alert. But I suspect that we will only work and document about a third of those alerts. The others simply become statistics of what's out there and what we're able to document given the resources.




Will Reed


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

did you ever have a situation where you didn't actually go on-site, but you did your intervention over the phone?

Answer:
Oh yes. A number of times that happened. I can't remember how many, but there were a few where you got on the phone and you really got the gist of the situation. Most of the time, you ran into that kind of thing when you knew the parties, or for me, the territory. It's pretty difficult to go in to do something like that when people don't have any frame of reference as to who you might be. Lots of times, somebody has to have some kind of knowledge about what your agency or organization is about when you go off and try to do that. But every once in a while, people will hear of you, and know who you are, and know about you, and then they'll say, "Hey, can you help us?" I remember one time up in Wyoming when they were having a dispute involving development money. One side was saying that they were entitled to a piece of the action as far as programs were concerned.....not cash per se, but the program. And they hadn't been involved in the past. Well, the people who had been involved all along, who ran the operation, felt that the first group wasn't entitled because it had no sort of equity in the situation. And then of course they didn't feel like discussing guidelines with people as to involvement. That took about three days of phone calls -- getting individuals from Washington involved, from the Community Action Program (CAP), getting some people from the regional CAP involved, and so forth. At that time, they didn't have a CAP representative up in Wyoming. They just had somebody come in and, like a stork, drop off a certain number of bucks in the area, and keep flying. That's how money was thrown around at the time. And whoever happened to be standing there got the money. What it boiled down to was having some regional coordinator out of Denver and Washington explain the guidelines to people by phone and let them know that others could become involved. They told them that newcomers had to come under a certain umbrella and you had to explain to each unit or segment what they could do, or how the process worked. Those are procedures-- these outsiders had to understand that they just couldn't Bogart their way in to the standing operation at the time. They had to petition their way into a situation by following prescribed procedures to become involved. And so after some doing of discussion, they kind of agreed to comply. As a matter of fact, they did comply because I knew the cousin of the lady that was involved with that. So she kind of went along with it, based on what this friend was saying to her about me, not about the program, but about me as an individual. So she began to get involved and has stayed involved for a long time.




Nancy Ferrell


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

Question:
Did you ever just handle cases over the phone entirely without actually meeting?

Answer:
Yes, after a time. I'm not sure if I would've counted them as a case, but there have been situations where I could've been a consultant to an official or a minority community leader and then they say, "I think we're okay. Things worked out." I would've considered that just referral or consulting, not a case.






Dick Salem


 [Full Interview] [Topic Top]

We might not have been able to respond, it may have been very low priority, but very likely it was out of our jurisdiction. We would typically refer it to somebody or give some quick phone advice or information.






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