COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Columbus City Schools is working to give students the tools to handle conflict and reduce violence through a three-day training program focused on helping students grow into leaders.
Tuesday through Thursday, students are going through a student-led Restorative Practices and Social Emotional Learning program.
“We’re trying to make the school a better place, less violence,” Mifflin High School senior Erika Gutierrez said.
Gutierrez went through the training a few months ago with a pilot group of students. Now she is helping others learn how to handle conflict.
“We actually helped a lot of kids last year, helping with, like, arguments, you know, trying to make friends again. And actually, we did help, like, we had a few conflicts, and we fixed them,” Gutierrez said.
Around 50 students are taking part in this three-day training. They were all nominated by teachers and come from Briggs, Beechcroft, Walnut Ridge, and Mifflin.
“We’re working on training students in four different high schools here in Columbus City Schools about how to lead in situations where there is conflict, how to engage in community building, how to address situations where harm has occurred, really any situation where the relationships matter,” Restorative Practices Coach AJ Crabill said.
CCS has seen it work in real-time.
“At Walnut Ridge, we have a swarm team. We are ‘swarm’ and we like to swarm you with our warmth and affection,” Walnut Ridge High School junior Jamari Fleshman said.
Fleshman said these methods help students open up.
“Normally, students, we don’t like to talk to adults, because we feel like they’re going to tell us what to do or how we should handle this. Being able to talk to somebody who is around your age or can relate to, can give you an understanding of like, maybe this isn’t really that big of a deal and I could just let it go,” Fleshman said.
He gives the example of trying to screw in a screw with a wrench:
“From the outside looking in, like why is the student making this horrible decision?” he said. “But what it inspires me to ask is: ‘Did they have the right tool and if they did, if they actually had a screwdriver would they have used that instead?’ In my experience, when students have the right tools for the right relationship job, they tend to have the wisdom to use that correctly.”
Crabill said one thing that has made this work is the number of people from the community who have stepped forward to support it. The goal is for this to grow to other schools.