Student Spotlight: Peer Mediation Programs: A Forum to Increase Appreciation for Diversity within our Schools' Walls
by Laura E. Weidner*
Violence has been a problem in our city for a long time, and in recent years it has spread to our schools. Some schools have even installed metal detectors hoping to stop violence. But weapons aren't the only problem. No metal detector on earth can stop people from bringing fear, prejudice, and conflict to school. 
Despite indications that overall rates of school crime are decreasing, the violence that is occurring is more serious and lethal than that to which students were once exposed.  In the brief time span from July 1, 1999 to June 30, 2000, there were thirty-two school-associated violent deaths.  In 2001, students between the ages of twelve and eighteen were victims of approximately two million nonfatal crimes while on their school campuses.  School violence has plagued urban areas for quite some time and, in recent years, has permeated to suburbia and even rural America.  Dangerous confrontations have become such a common part of a student's day that after hearing about a drive-by shooting that took place around her school, a fourteen-year-old girl calmed her mother down by casually remarking, “Get used to it—that's the way it is.”  There is no excuse for this. Schools are supposed to be safe havens for our children, not dangerous institutions in which violence is the norm.
Even though conflict is a natural part of life, it is apparent from the statistics that children do not know how to properly deal with the inevitable tensions they face. A study of 815 students from nine high schools across the United States revealed that most teenagers instinctively respond to tense situations with violence.  Violence, however, rarely works and moreover, often does not address or solve the heart of the dispute. Schools have therefore implemented programs to educate students on the nature of conflict and how to appropriately deal with it. Part II of this paper discusses the foundations, process, and different structures of one form of conflict resolution education, peer mediation programs (PMPs). Part III assesses the success of PMPs, as shown through empirical studies. Part IV notes the resilience of youths' views on diversity, links the ability to increase an individual's perspective taking to PMPs, and finally explores ways in which to diversify PMPs and hopefully open children's and adolescents' minds.
II. Background of Peer Mediation Programs
A. History and Goals of Peer Mediation Programs
Due to the intricacies of human nature, conflict is bound to occur, and schools have tried several different disciplinary tactics over the years to manage disputing students. Traditionally corporal punishment dominated, but with the advent and growth of public education in the 1960s, exclusionary punishments including out-of-school suspension and expulsion became the preferred, albeit futile practice.  After the United States Supreme Court sanctified the right of students to public education in 1975, more humane, in-school suspensions became the norm.  But the violent nature of conflict began to rapidly escalate in the late 1980s, and legislators in a frenzied rush to remedy the situation adopted the Gun-Free Schools Act, which made federal funding for public schools contingent on each state taking a zero-tolerance stance towards firearms and weapons in schools.  Many criticized the get-tough legislation as inflexible, disproportional, and like many of its predecessors, as inappropriately alienating at-risk students. 
After implementing a wide variety of supposed solutions with little or no success, administrators and legislators realized that there was no universal fix to school violence and that programs should instead be properly tailored to certain schools and their specific issues. Moving away from solely punitive reactions, schools took a more restorative, rehabilitative and educational path with the establishment of conflict resolution programs that aim to teach students how to approach conflict in a more productive manner, thereby producing a more cooperative environment in which they can learn.
PMPs are but one part of the broad conflict resolution spectrum that is currently infiltrating the education system. Schools choose to implement PMPs for several reasons, but the Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management has identified the following three standard overarching objectives:
- To provide direct benefits to the children by enlarging their set of individual and interpersonal skills and conflict response options;
- To improve the school climate so teachers could teach and children could learn by limiting disruptions; and
- To reach and assist communities through the schools by encouraging children to use their skills in family or neighborhood conflicts. 
With such a wide range of goals, schools are optimistic about PMPs and view them as a potential “panacea for many of the ills facing today's schools.” 
B. The Basic Process of Peer Mediation
Unlike previous punitive reactions to misbehavior, PMPs are based on the premise that conflict is natural and can even be beneficial, as long as the disputant's aggression is derailed before it escalates into a serious altercation.  When two disputing students arrive at the peer mediation to ensure a safe atmosphere, a student mediator lays ground rules which can include no interruptions, no name-calling, and confidentiality.  Each student is given the chance to tell his side of the story, and it is the mediator's role to neutrally facilitate that communication by paraphrasing, reflecting feelings and clarifying the issues. The mediator identifies the interests of both participants and then guides them into the solution generation phase, in which the students discuss viable creative options for resolving their conflict. Just as in mediations of adults, it is the disputants who determine whether an agreement will be reached and if so, what that agreement will entail.
C. Structure of Peer Mediation Programs
There are currently over 8,500 PMPs in the United States  which generally follow either a cadre or total school approach.  Cadre approaches only select and train a few students who become responsible for mediating all possible disputes that may arise within the school.  The total school approach is a much bolder stance that incorporates conflict resolution education into a school's set curriculum and teaches all individuals even minimally associated with the school how to manage conflict constructively. 
III. Evaluation of Peer Mediation Programs
A. Success of PMPs
In response to inconsistent findings amongst studies on peer mediation, Nancy Burrell and colleagues combined forty-three previously recorded data sets on PMPs at all levels (ranging from kindergarten to high school).  In terms of descriptive outcomes, the study revealed that 93% of the mediations ended in the parties reaching some sort of agreement.  Students and administrators alike felt that mediation programs have a positive effect on their school and actual school records confirm those beliefs.  In-depth analysis of the large data set showed that 1) students can adequately follow the steps of the mediation process; 2) mediators' overall approach to interpersonal conflict does change as a result of training; and 3) that training successfully teaches mediators that conflict can be positive.  Burrell also found that after a year of serving as a peer mediator, student mediators' grades and self-esteem increased substantially. 
Sociologist Paul Lindsay compared fourteen schools (elementary, middle, and high schools) with PMPs to three schools without PMPs by interviewing school personnel at both groups of schools.  In regards to discipline, 53% of the adults responding to the questionnaire believed that since implementation of a PMP, their school was safer to a moderate or great degree.  Furthermore, teachers at schools with PMPs commented that the programs empower students to take responsibility for their actions and gain control of their lives, so they “feel like they are doing something worthwhile.” 
B. Concerns about PMPs
Despite the numerous advantages PMPs have bestowed upon educational settings, researchers have voiced two main concerns. First, while peer mediation effectively manages minor student conflicts (such as arguments between friends), some doubt its ability to deal with the highly violent ordeals that plague many American schools.  Second, although research solidly reveals that peer mediators benefit greatly from conflict resolution training because they personally go through the training and consistently witness the benefits of cooperation firsthand, it has yet to be seen whether student disputants enjoy the same positive results. 
IV. A Need for Diversity in Peer Mediation Programs
A. The Intersection of Diversity and Peer Mediation Programs
The population is becoming increasingly diverse and the nation's schools will continue to reflect that diversity.  Because schools are the very institutions which educate and house youths during their formative years, it is the school's role to prepare them to live and prosper in a society “which is in fact already very heterogeneous.”  Moreover, one of the most pressing problems in schools and among youth in general is cultural and racial bias.  Conflicts also frequently arise from social differences such as gender, sexual orientation, social class, or physical or mental abilities. Mediation is a logical place to confront these complex matters because “it is during mediations that these issues most often arise.” 
Children notice differences amongst humans very early in life; by age two, a child can distinguish between genders and skin colors  and shortly thereafter forms impressions of others (which of course can fall into either a good or bad category). Many youngsters learn prejudicial beliefs from their parents or their greater environment before they have the cognitive ability to personally evaluate them, but the good news is that negative attitudes towards people situated differently from oneself are not fixed. Prominent researcher Gordon Allport states that it takes the entire periods of childhood and adolescence for a human to “master prejudice.” By promoting “tolerance, respect, and acceptance through new ways of communicating and understanding,”  conflict resolution education—especially PMPs since they are becoming a staple in our schools—can increase perspective taking and help open youngsters' minds.
B. The Development of Perspective Taking
Building on the concepts of Mead  and Piaget , social perspective taking is generally understood as the “ability to free oneself from one's own view and to recognize the thoughts, feelings, and motives of the self and others.”  Contemporary educational psychologist Robert Selman has identified four stages of the perspective taking process that develop between early childhood to late adolescence and has accordingly extended the well-established theory into the areas of moral development, friendship formation, and interpersonal negotiations. 
During the first level of egocentrism, youngsters from approximately age three to five believe that everyone else holds the same exact views as they do and are thus only concerned with their own needs, wants and feelings. Because they are not yet able to take on the psychological perspective of others, when faced with conflict, cognitively infantile humans in this stage tend to either fight back or flee the situation.  Between the ages of six and eight, children enter the second level and although they can technically recognize that people have different perspectives and needs,  they still cannot realistically consider those factors when making decisions and thus, any problem solving they engage in will most likely result in a win-lose situation. 
Around age nine, the child approaching adolescence takes on a mutual or second-person perspective,  meaning that they can view their own thoughts, feelings, and behavior from another person's perspective and recognize that others can do the same. At this stage, the maturing child sees him or herself as part of a larger context, can empathize with others' situations, and in a conflict or negotiation context, desires all those involved to gain.  Then, as teenagers approach adulthood, they develop the capacity to engage in “shared perspective taking,” meaning that they can completely step back from their situation, see themselves from and incorporate a third-person point of view into an end result.  This highly sophisticated mind-frame permits people to truly collaborate and form win-win solutions to conflicts that are more inclusive and stable. 
C. The Influence of Perspective Taking on Prejudice
Gaining perspective not only helps form creative resolution of conflict, but also influences a person's greater cognitive scheme. One study questioned whether encouraging an individual to empathize with a stigmatized outgroup person (to take the perspective of someone different than him/herself) would increase their value of that person.  Before listening to a broadcast segment, the control group was instructed to “remain objective and detached,” while the experimental group was told to “imagine how the person being interviewed feels about the experiences he/she describes.” The segment contained one Jamal Johnson, an African-American undergraduate student, discussing his family life, the hardships of being a first generation college student, and the group-related struggles he constantly encountered.
Participants who adopted Jamal's perspective showed more empathy, attributed greater importance to situational causal factors (rather than placing blame on Jamal for his “problems”), and expressed more favorable attitudes towards African-Americans in general.  Through this, it can similarly be assumed that in a peer mediation setting, if students can take on other peoples' perspectives when working through a problem, they will better understand where their counterpart is coming from, attempt to overlook differences, and if they are able to internalize this openmindedness, potentially even break down stereotypes.
In a similar study, undergraduates were shown a photograph of an older man sitting on a chair, asked to write a narrative essay about him, and respond to a variety of questions about the elderly.  When composing their thoughts, half of the participants were told to “take the perspective of the photographed individual…[to] go through the typical day in their shoes” and the remaining half were given no instructions. The perspective-takers painted the older man in a better light and had a better overall attitude toward the elderly, probably because perspective taking results in greater overlap between representations of oneself and of the target.  By stepping into the shoes of the elderly man, common ground was established and the undergraduate perspective-takers noticed that the old man is not all that different from themselves. 
D. Ways to Diversify Peer Mediation Programs
In addition to the many benefits PMPs already offer, they provide a realistic opportunity for schools to promote intercultural sensitivity and better reflect modern day's heterogeneous student bodies.  Some believe that merely by placing different students in a cooperative context such as PMPs, bias will decrease. Psychologist Charles Green notes that “if they are working together for shared goals, it breaks down negative stereotypes they had of each other,”  but, one wonders how effective close proximity in a one-shot peer mediation session can be at ending longstanding fears or impressions.
Active, caring or concerned engagement through meaningful interaction and dialogue is probably a better way to ensure that the students truly respect members of different groups.  Because peer mediators develop these deep relationships, schools should do everything they can to erase socioeconomic and racial lines that divide today's students and diversify the peer mediator pool. When implementing PMPs, schools can establish greater diversity during the following three stages: recruitment, selection and training.
Often, high-achieving students that already have an extensive list of extracurricular activities on their resumes or students from professional and secure families are the ones volunteering to be peer mediators. While the programs benefit from these role models, they are not necessarily the ones who most need the interaction with their peers.  The first step in developing a diverse PMP, then, is to recruit prospective student mediators from traditionally underrepresented populations, including racial and ethnic minorities and at-risk, socially inhibited, and disabled students. 
One way to do this is to have program coordinators extend personal invitations to students who are often overlooked for school recognition.  Another possible recruiting tactic is for the coordinators to meet with a committee of teachers and together, compile a list of students who would likely benefit from participation in a PMP. 
Once a potential mediator pool is attained, PMP coordinators have to actually select those who will be trained and serve as peer mediators. Schools should try to select as many students from as many different cross-sections that they can, yet without reliance on quotas.  To break down neighborhood alliances for instance, students from various communities must be picked. In addition to the high academic achievers who seem to seek out participation, less-involved students should also be included because they seem to serve equally well as peer mediators.  Schools may be hesitant to have at-risk students  serve as peer mediators, but these troubled youths' negative energy may be re-channeled from working in close proximity with more “on-track” students.  Both socially inhibited and disabled students would also benefit from active involvement in a PMP. 
Because it is neither realistic nor desirable that peer mediators only mediate students exactly like themselves, it is essential that once a school selects its diverse body of mediators, it trains the students in intercultural and intergroup sensitivity.  Coming to the mediation table from different cultural backgrounds and various levels of physical and mental capacities, young disputants will surely not approach the process in the same manner. 
The first portion of training should be dedicated to reaching students on an informational level; trainers should talk with their students and teach them that even though others may look or act different, heterogeneity is something to celebrate rather than scorn. Mediators must be trained to be sensitive of disputants for whom English is their second language.  Training should also deal with sensitivity towards physically, mentally, and emotionally disabled students.  Trainers should instruct future mediators to “acknowledge the person's value as a human being before making reference to the condition they exhibit.” 
After gaining insight on people situated differently than themselves, trainers should have the mediator class actively participate in simulations that will expand their perspective and appreciation for diversity. More than just imprinting knowledge into their brains, students through these exercises will learn for themselves through doing, observing, and discussing. 
Peer mediation programs are fairly new phenomena whose exact successes and weaknesses will probably not be known for quite some time. Although doubts exist whether they are an appropriate means to resolve extremely violent conflict, PMPs seem to handle everyday minor disputes with grace and even more important, open students' eyes to the peaceful avenues of cooperation and collaboration. I urge schools to continue supporting and implementing PMPs and when doing so, to remember the additional benefits truly diverse PMPs serve. If a program recruits, selects, and trains students from all cross-sections of the student body, students will see it as a neutral forum and will thus, probably be more willing to try the alternative process. Moreover, by being in close proximity and working with traditionally peripheral students, mediators and participants will be better able to genuinely understand other's positions and desires, making common ground all the more visible and viable. If students can exit the peer mediation room with increased perspective on life, the possibility exists that they will maintain and approach their next quarrel with an open mind. The rate of interpersonal conflict would likely decrease and schools could, once again, be safe havens for our children.
* B.A. Ohio University , 2002; J.D. Candidate, The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, 2006. I would like to thank Professors Sarah Cole and Joseph B. Stulberg for encouraging me and other dispute resolution students to follow our hearts. I would also like to extend my sincerest gratitude to my amazing family and to my crazy, lovable friends for getting me through my days.
 Linda Lantieri & Janet Patti, Waging Peace in Our Schools 92 (1996) (quoting a student from Phoenix Academy in New York City.).
 1999 Annual Report on School Safety 2-3, U.S. Depts. of Education & Justice, http://www.ed.gov/PDFDocs/ InterimAR.pdf.
 DeVoe, J.F. et al., Indicators of School Crime and Safety: 2003 2, U.S. Depts. of Education & Justice, http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2004/2004004.pdf (Oct. 2003).
 Id. at 6. Approximately twenty-eight percent of American male students enter the halls every day, toting guns, knives or other dangerous weapons. See Gary Richard Hattal & Cynthia Morrow Hattal, Battling School Violence with Mediation Technology, 2 Pepp. Disp. Resol. L.J. 357, 357 (2002).
 The spokesman for the National Education Association legitimately warns that “[t]here's no geographic exclusion anymore…It could happen anywhere at any time.” Vicky S chreiber Dill, A Peaceable School 6 (1998).
 David W. Johnson & Roger T. Johnson, Reducing School Violence Through Conflict Resolution 3 (1995).
 When given the hypothetical “if a girl sees someone flirting with her boyfriend, she should fight with her,” 81.4% agreed and an overwhelming 73.9% agreed without hesitation to the statement “it's okay to hit someone who hits you first.” William DeJong, Preventing Interpersonal Violence Among Youth: An Introduction to School, Community, and Mass Media Strategies 17, U.S. Dept. of Justice (1994).
 A. Troy Adams , The Status of School Discipline and Violence, 567 Annals 140, 142-44 (2000). Schools during this period merely pushed troubled youngsters away and as a result, the rift between the school and the student increased: the youngster felt more alienated, lost more respect for authority and therefore was more likely to engage in asocial behavior. Id. at 145.
 Goss v. Lopez, 419 U.S. 565 (1975). After Goss, schools were required to give students oral or written notice of the charges against them and a reasonable amount of time to explain or challenge the allegations at a hearing if they so desired. See Alixandra Blitz, Peer Mediation Programs: An End to School Violence?, 4 Cardozo Online J. Conflict Resol. 4, n.34 (2002), at http:cardozojcr.com/vol4no2/notes01.html.
 20 U.S.C. 8921(b) (1994); see also Alicia C. Insley, Comment, Suspending and Expelling Children from Educational Opportunity: Time to Reevaluate Zero Tolerance Policies, 50 Am. U.L. Rev. 1039, 1046 (2001). Some states even went beyond what the Act mandated and expanded zero-tolerance attitudes to other disciplinary infractions. See Blitz, supra note 9 at n.35.
 Id at ¶ 10 . ; see also id. at n.42 (discussing Riane Eisler's views on the “dominator model”). Eisler warns of the dangers of excluding vulnerable students who already experience malicious thoughts. If a student believes that his school mistreated him, he may be provoked and seek revenge against the administration responsible for his suspension or expulsion. Id. Because the Act gave administrations significantly wide discretion to remove and send children to the very homes that may have been the very root of their problems, there was also concern that students were still being deprived of their democratic right to education.
 Sandra Kaufman, Assessment of the Implementation of Conflict Management Programs in Seventeen Ohio Schools: First Year Report 7, Ohio Commission on Dispute Resolution and Conflict Management (1990).
 William S. Haft & Elaine R. Weiss, Peer Mediation in Schools: Expectations and Evaluations , 3 H arv. Negot. L.R ev . 213, 215 (1998).
 Ronnie Casella, The Benefits of Peer Mediation in the Context of Urban Conflict and Program Status , 35 Urb. Educ . 324, 325 (2000).
 Lantieri & Patti, supra note 1, at 140. Everything discussed during the session is to remain confidential, with the exception of illegal or life-threatening statements. Blitz, supra note 9, at ¶ 17.
 Haft & Weiss, supra note 13, at 213.
 Helen Lupton-Smith, Peer Mediation , in Handbook of School Violence 137, 140 (Edwin R. Gerler, Jr. ed., 2004).
 David W. Johnson et al., Effectiveness of Conflict Managers in an Inner-City Elementary School, 89 J. E duc. Res . 280, 280 (1996). Advantages of the cadre approach include fairly easy implementation, low cost and minimal infringement on other school resources (such as time). Disadvantages of the method, however, are that the small number of mediators may not be able to realistically hear all the disputes that need to be heard, the mediators may not adequately represent the student body, and the depth of training may suffer. See Lupton-Smith, supra note 17, at 140-41.
 See id. at 141.
 See Nancy A. Burrell et al., Evaluating Peer Mediation Outcomes in Educational Settings: A Meta-Analytic Review, 21 Conflict Resol. Q. 7, 11 (2003).
 Id. at 16. This may be because the students appreciate the opportunity to actively engage in forming their settlements' boundaries, rather than having administrators determine their fate. Moreover, eighty-eight percent of those youngsters were satisfied with the terms of the agreement. Id. at 16-17.
 Schools with PMPs experienced a decline in administrative suspensions, expulsions, and disciplinary actions. Id. at 17-18.
 Id. at 18-19. These are difficult concepts to measure, but the results demonstrate that above all, peer mediation training and possibly even participation in the peer mediation process offer students a fresh outlook on the nature of conflict.
 Id. at 19-20. Burrell does not specifically discuss why conflict resolution training so positively influences other aspects of youths' lives, but it logically follows that since PMPs give mediators a dominant role in their school community and teach them how to cooperate with their peers, they enjoy a more peaceful life in which they can academically succeed.
 See Paul Lindsay, Conflict Resolution and Peer Mediation in Public Schools: What Works?, 16 Mediation Q. 85, 88 (1998). Lindsay notes that it is difficult to isolate the impact of peer mediation programs and that teacher and staff perceptions must be interpreted cautiously. Id. at 89.
 Id. at 89-91. The main difference between schools with and without programs is that peer mediation provides an alternative to the traditional disciplinary system, so that the child can be kept “out of the administrative loop.” Id. at 91.
 Id. at 93. In schools without PMPs, students are fairly powerless because they must either go to a teacher for assistance or get stuck with whatever disciplinary action is handed to them. This seems to fill the missing gap which Burrell hinted. Since peer mediators and disputing youths learn skills that actively engage them in the conflict resolution process, they become a valuable part of their school which seems to improve their self-esteem.
 See Casella, supra note 14, at 340. For example, should an elementary school peer mediator really bear the burden of “fixing” another student who brings a gun to school? Peer mediators who are not trained how to deal with difficult conflicts may not be able to locate the complex issues underlying the torment during a single mediation session. Also, the obstacle remains that many students who commit highly violent acts do so for the first time and therefore, even if peer mediators could be of assistance to extremely troubled youths, it is too late because the offense has already occurred. See Blitz, supra note 9, at ¶ 32.
 Id. at ¶ 26. Even if the participants reach an agreement, one wonders how much they really absorbed and whether they will recall the option of peer mediation or engage in problem-solving strategies when faced with their next conflict. Schools could remedy this potential concern by implementing a whole school approach; by teaching the entire student body conflict resolution skills as part of a set curriculum, all would benefit rather than select few who happen to be chosen as mediators.
 A 1999 United States Department of Commerce study on the changes of race and ethnic composition indicated that all racial and ethnic minority groups will increase at a faster pace than non-Hispanic whites so, that after 2050, non-Hispanic whites are likely to be the minority group. Wan He, Dynamic Diversity: Projected Changes in U.S. Race and Ethnic Composition 1995 to 2050 6, 11, U.S. Dept. of Commerce, http://www.mbda.gov/documents/unpubtext.pdf (1999).
 Lantieri & Patti, supra note 1 at 92.
 Id. at 89. For example, tension between groups of Laotian and white American students ran high at a Boston middle school; racial slurs and bigoted taunting became so bad that a Laotian student dropped out after others threatened her family members. See Michael J. Karcher & Michael J. Nakkula, Multicultural Pair Counseling and the Development of Expanded Worldviews, in Fostering Friendship: Pair Therapy for Treatment and Prevention 209 (Robert Selman, et al. eds., 1997).
 Ronnie Casella, The Cultural Foundations of Peer Mediation: Beyond a Behaviorist Model of Urban Conflict, in Preventing Violence in Schools: A Challenge to American Democracy 159, 176 (2001).
 Lantieri & Patti, supra note 1, at 16.
 Richard J. Bodine & Donna K. Crawford, The Handbook of Conflict Resolution Education: A Guide to Building Quality Programs in Schools 11 (1998).
 George Herbert Mead believed that socialization of the self is dependant on the ability to take on another's role. See Rosanne Menna & Nancy J. Cohen, Social Perspective Taking, in Psychological Mindedness: A Contemporary Understanding 189, 189-190 (Mary McCallum & William E. Piper eds., 1997).
 Jean Piaget's extensive theory of cognitive development stated that an individual's social perspective taking arises from his ability to decenter; humans are initially egocentric and cannot differentiate between themselves and others, but eventually acquire the ability to consider multiple perspectives of a single situation. Id. at 190.
 Id. at 189 (citing Carolyn Uhlinger Shantz, Social Cognition , in 3 Handbook of Child Psychology: Cognitive Development 495 (Paul H. Mussen ed., 4th ed. 1983)).
 Selman's basic premise is that as children mature, they become increasingly aware that others maintain different perspectives and eventually begin to incorporate those perspectives into their decision-making process and produce higher negotiation strategies.
 Menna & Cohen, supra note 27, at 191.
 Steven Brion-Meisels & Robert L. Selman, From Fight or Flight to Collaboration: A Framework for Understanding Individual and Institutional Development in the School , in Schools, Violence, and society 164, 172 (Allan M. Hoffman ed., 1996). They are for the most part, ignorant to other possible solutions and thus, grab onto what seems to be the quickest and easiest fix (which again, is usually retaliation or avoidance).
 Menna & Cohen, supra note 37, at 191.
 Brion-Meisels & Selman, supra note 42, at 172.
 Menna & Cohen, supra note 37, at 191.
 Brion-Meisels & Selman, supra note 42, at 172. For instance, an adolescent in this stage may suggest the following mutually beneficial solution to her friend: “I'll help you with your homework if you'll teach me how to dance like you do.” Id. Since the achievement of this level opens the cognitive door for cooperation, it may be the most important point for conflict resolution education to intervene and reinforce the importance of actively listening to others in order to discover common ground and jointly work towards resolution.
 Michael J. Karcher, Connectedness and School Violence: A Framework for Developmental Interventions, in Handbook of School Violence 7, 21 (Edwin R. Gerler, Jr. ed., 2004).
 Brion-Meisels & Selman, supra note 42, at 172-73. Someone in this final cognitive stage looks at a problem's total picture when developing a solution and may say, “[y]ou can join our dance group even though we are already full, but you need to promise to not skip out on practices.” The individual has taken into account both her needs and her friend's needs, all the while ensuring that the agreement is objectively fair and realistic. Id. at 173.
 See Theresa K. Vescio et al., Perspective Taking and Prejudice Reduction: The Mediational Role of Empathy Arousal and Situational Attributions , 33 Eur. J. Soc. Psychol. 455, 456 (2003).
 Id. at 467.
 See Adam D. Galinsky & Gillian Ku, The Effects of Perspective-Taking on Prejudice: The Moderating Role of Self-Evaluation , 30 Personality & Soc. Psychol. Bull. 594, 596-97 (2000).
 Id. at 597, 600.
 An elderly man wakes up every morning, eats breakfast, and progresses through his day, just as they do.
 Norma L. Day-Vines et al., Conflict Resolution: The Value of Diversity in the Recruitment, Selection and Training of Peer Mediators , 43 Sch. Couns. 392, 392 (1996).
 Lantieri & Patti, supra note 1, at 17.
 Karcher & Nakkula, supra note 32, at 214, 223. Karcher and Nakkula discuss a “pair therapy” case study in which two culturally diverse seventh graders worked together on various tasks for an entire year. David, a white Irish-American who felt out of place in his school that was 98% children of color, was placed with Manuel, a Puertro Rican who was socially insecure due to a weight problem. During in-depth conversations, each conveyed his feelings of isolation from peers and with time, each gained perspective on the situation, became more comfortable with himself, and thus happier in his overall school environment. Id. at 215-18.
 Moreover, a PMP solely made up of mainstream students may discourage minorities from joining or even seeking out their assistance. One female African-American student said she has no interest in being part of the peer mediation team because it is “sissy” and just “[a]ll these White people sitting around…[t]here ain't no space for me in there.” Casella, supra note 14, at 349.
 Throughout the recruiting process though, it is cautioned to not unnecessarily elevate a student's hopes; if a student is not sensitive, mature, confident, and a good listener, he does not possess the qualities of a good mediation, will most likely not be selected as a peer mediator, and rejection at this early stage will only add to his feelings of disappointment.
 See Day-Vines et al., supra note 54, at 393-94. When genuinely approached, students seem to appreciate the attention, feel needed, and are thus more willing to consider becoming a peer mediator.
 Id. at 394. Teachers, after all, interact with the entire student body and are probably in the best position to evaluate who possess the characteristics of an effective mediator. At schools with PMPs already in place, current mediators can recommend candidates since they too, know their peers extremely well and understand what it takes to be a good member of the program. Id.
 See id. at 396.
 Just because someone does not get straight A's does not mean that they are a bad listener or facilitator.
 At-risk students are those who are “in jeopardy of leaving school before graduation.” Day-Vines et al., supra note 54, at 398.
 Also, with the comfort that the program contains people they can actually relate to, students with disciplinary or behavioral issues will be more likely to seek out the assistance of a PMP.
 For example, one young girl with a terminal illness who used to feel completely ostracized from her peers became a mediator and wrote in her journal that she now has the confidence to communicate more directly with her classmates because they look up to her. See Day-Vines et al., supra note 54, at 399.
 Id. at 400.
 For instance, as welcoming and neutral a setting as mediation is supposed to be, socially inhibited children and adolescents may still find the environment intimidating and at-risk students may be hesitant to trust student mediators.
 It is important for the mediators to carefully explain the process to such participants, to be patient, and to politely ask questions if they need clarification.
 These students deal with discrimination on a continuous basis; people tend to either tiptoe around them (treating them as fragile specimens) or avoid them altogether.
 Day-Vines et al., supra note 54, at 403.
 There is not a plethora of culturally-sensitive training material on the market, so it is suggested that PMP program developers have students come up with their own role plays and use the best ones in subsequent training sessions. Id. at 406. After all, students best understand the disputes that their peers go through, will be able to come up with creative mock mediations, and if the mediator class is diverse, will contribute great perspective.