RCSD comes together to support antiviolence initiative for students

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. More than 100 students in the Rochester City School District were trained Thursday on how to lead their classmates in conflict resolution.

The Rochester City School District is hoping these third, fourth and fifth graders will be role models in their schools.

They’re being trained to work with younger students, to talk with them about their lives and challenges and to encourage them to use different ways to address problems or fights.

“The great part about this is we’re really focusing on equitably selecting the students,” said Christopher Smith of RCSD Roc Restorative Programs. “These may be students that have had circumstances that are preventing them from being successful. Maybe they’re leading their school in referrals. As educators, we need to change the narrative and we need to provide those opportunities for these students that there is a better way.”

The hope, of course, is to show students that they can be leaders even if they’re young and even if they’ve already made some mistakes.

“When we look at what’s happening in our city a lot of those kids that end up in gang activity have been excluded, been suspended from school,” RCSD parent Laura Smith said. “They’ve been ostracized by their peer group and they’ve come to communities and found in those gangs a community that they didn’t have people who welcome them in. So how do we make sure that schools are places that always welcome you in? You did something wrong yesterday, but we still want you here.”

These kids will hopefully help that mission. At this age, the district says they’ll lead team-building circles in their schools and help resolve conflicts among peers.

Ashiyah Barrett, a third grader at School No. 10, already has some experience in conflict resolution as a big sister.

“I have brothers, and like I really love them and stuff like that so I would want to help other people too,” she said. “And like my classmates, some people misbehave some people don’t so I’d rather they listen to me stay calm because I help people stay calm and be steady cause I don’t like people running around going crazy.”

Briella Sage, a fifth grader at School No. 54, is also building upon skills she’s already used with some of her friends.

“He was a little angry because somebody pushed him in the playground, and I just told him to calm down and just brought his anger down,” she said.

School No. 16 fifth grader Serenity Stephens says kids sometimes have an easier time talking to kids.

“They have more in common with each other,” she said.

So, if she can help, she wants to.

“They can make a mistake and they can fix their attitude about the mistake,” Stephens said.

And while the work they do will help their classmates, it’ll also help them.

“I can go home with a good report and my mom and grandma can say, ‘oh you did a very good job’ and stuff,” Stephens said. “I’m hoping to learn that I can be a good person one day and bring my dreams come true.”

So, at this age, the kids lead the circles with their classmates.
Once they get into middle school, if they want to continue, they get additional training on peer-to-peer dispute resolution.