What is School Mediation?
The current Russian legislation does not contain the concept of school mediation. According to article 2 of the Federal Law “On alternative procedure for resolving disputes with the participation of a mediator (mediation procedure)” dated July 27, 2010 No. 193-FZ contains only a general concept of the mediation procedure.
Letter of the Ministry of Education and Science of Russia dated November 18, 2013 N VK-844/07 states that “On the direction of guidelines for the organization of school mediation services” (together with “Recommendations for the organization of school mediation services in educational organizations”, approved by the Ministry of Education and Science of Russia on November 18, 2013 N VK-54 / 07vn) contains only the concept of the “School mediation” method, which is understood as an innovative method used to resolve disputes and prevent conflict situations between participants in the educational process as a modern alternative way of resolving disputes.
This letter also gives an understanding of the term School Mediation Service – A service created in an educational organization, consisting of employees of the educational organization, students and their parents who have undergone the necessary training and education on the basics of the school mediation method and mediation approach.
A methodological recommendation for the creation and development of school mediation services in educational institutions of the Federal State Budgetary Institution “Federal Institute of Mediation” from 2015 discloses only the concept of a School Mediation Service. According to these Guidelines, the School Mediation Service is understood as an association of participants in the educational process of various levels (employees of an educational organization, students, parents, etc.), aimed at assisting in the prevention and resolution of conflict situations arising in the process of education and educational activities, using the school mediation method and mediation approach, and the use of restorative practice in preventive work and activities aimed at working with the consequences of conflicts, antisocial manifestations, and offenses.
The concept of development until 2017 a network of mediation services in order to implement restorative justice in relation to children, including those who have committed socially dangerous acts, but have not reached the age of criminal liability in the Russian Federation, approved by the Order of the Government of the Russian Federation dated July 30, 2014 No. 1430-r. It introduces the concept of “Restorative justice” – as a new approach to administer justice. It is aimed primarily not at punishing the culprit by isolating him from society, but at restoring material, emotional-psychological (moral) and other damage caused to the victim, the community and society, at awareness and making amends, restoring relations, promoting the rehabilitation and re-socialization of the offender. “Restorative approach” is used to put in practice, in particular at preventive and corrective work with children and adolescents, including at the time of resolving disputes and conflicts as well as post the period of offenses being committed, the approach focuses on skills and abilities aimed at the comprehensive restoration of relationships, trust, material, moral damage, etc.; “Mediation approach” is an approach based on the principles of mediation, which assumes possession of the skills of a positive informed communication which creates the basis for the prevention and (or) effective resolution of disputes and conflicts in everyday situations without mediation as a full-fledged procedure.
The question then arises, what is school mediation and is this concept limited only by the methods of “School mediation”, “Mediation approach”, or the creation of the “School Mediation Service” and the use of restorative practice? Of course, not. School mediation is a general collective term.
“School mediation” is understood as a system that includes certain methodology and approaches or a combination of both, which are taught to participants in the educational process at various levels (employees of educational organizations, students, parents, officials of the system of state and municipal education, etc.) which enables to resolve and prevent controversial and conflict situations at all levels of the Russian education system (school, family, state and municipal bodies, organizations and institutions of the educational system, etc.), thus alleviating the consequences of conflict and controversial situations, antisocial manifestations, and serious offenses in the educational system.
Therefore, school mediation is not limited to just one method of “School Mediation”, “Mediation Approach” or “School Mediation Service”. Over the short period of implementation of the idea of ”School mediation” in the general educational process in Russia, thanks to various public associations of professional mediators, public organizations specializing in working with children and their families, educational institutions, groups of volunteers, groups of schoolchildren and teachers, various innovative methods, concepts, methods and approaches of dealing with conflicts and disputes arising in educational institutions are being introduced into the general educational process in schools.
School mediation is also not limited to the area of the educational organization. Family involvement plays an important role in the integration of School Mediation. This helps children to avoid and resolve conflicts within the family during difficult and potentially harmful conflict situations especially, during critical periods of development in their lives. On the other hand, the conflict will be resolved more successfully if the parents (legal representatives) encourage the child towards a meditative approach. In the concept of School Mediation, general education is not considered as a separate element of education, but as an important link that ensures smooth and conflict free transition from childhood to adolescence and youth.
The main goal of School Mediation is to create a safe and humane space (environment) for the wholesome development and socialization of children and adolescents of all ages and groups, including children in challenging personal life situations, children in a socially dangerous situation or from disadvantaged families, children with deviant behaviour, children who have committed socially dangerous acts, or released from juvenile prison, and other children in similar disadvantageous positions. It also focuses on the formation of mechanisms for restoring the rights of the victim from illegal actions of minors who have not reached the age of criminal liability.
The activities of school mediation services are aimed at creating a safe space (environment) not only for children, but also for adults, by helping to foster a culture of constructive behaviour in them in various conflict situations.
Integration and early development of School mediation in the educational space will allow the spread of the positive practice of peaceful and constructive interaction and conflict resolution to other social spheres of the Russian society. It will help develop a mentality of cooperation and partnership in society and lay the foundation for the upbringing of future generations based on humanistic values that prioritises human life, well-being and harmonious development of the individual with a positive social interaction. Thus, the development of School Mediation is one of the most important social innovations of our times and due to its demand, is becoming one of the priority tasks in the field of modern upbringing and education.