The Western Justice Center, which works to advance alternative dispute resolution techniques in our courts, our communities and our schools, will hold its annual ABCs of Conflict Training Program, an intensive 30-hour professional development deep dive into the power and practice of conflict resolution and restorative justice.
“We have a chance to teach young people a different way to deal with conflict than what they are seeing modeled for them in public life or on social media,” said WJC Executive Director Elissa Barrett. “Imagine what our communities would be like if the next generation was comfortable with conflict and knew how to help people find common ground? Imagine what our communities would be like if educators had the tools to create that seismic shift?”
Sixty educators are expected to attend ABCs of Conflict this year. Participants will include local teachers, high level administrators, counselors and youth leaders from a wide range of institutions, including public, independent, magnet, charter and continuing education schools.
“It's an amazing training, […] to understand conflict, to understand mediation, to understand real life scenarios that happen into the classroom and outside the classroom,” said one educator. Another participant stated, “[I] absolutely recommend this to colleagues of mine at my school site and beyond my school site, because I think that, frankly, this is something […] all educators should be required to do.”
ABCs of Conflict’s most substantial impact is through its more than 300 graduates. With fresh skills and renewed energy, they have returned to their schools to jump start peer-to-peer student mediation programs and to implement restorative justice practices in communities from South and East Los Angeles to the San Gabriel Valley and from Culver City to the North and West San Fernando Valley. The force and effect of that collective work is profound.
Young people face conflict on their school campuses every day – conflict that might arise from economic, family or community stress or from the impact of our current political discourse.
Schools that use conflict resolution programs, like peer mediation, see an 18-50% decrease in student suspension rates within their first two years.  That is because peer mediators resolve more than 90% of the conflicts they mediate and implement 80-96% of those conflict resolutions.
ABCs of Conflict will be led this year by former WJC Conflict Resolution Program Director, Emily Linnemeier, who is pursuing her doctorate at George Mason’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution. Linnemeier is joined by Jason Harper, professional mediator, adjunct professor at the USC Gould School of Law and past president of the Southern California Mediators Association (SCMA), and by Schoene Mahmood, Restorative Justice Program Manager at Loyola Marymount’s Center for Urban Resilience.
ABCs of Conflict also includes WJC’s Creating Bias Free Classrooms segments on bias and bullying prevention, which use improvisational theater featuring young adult actors from WJC’s Encompass Service Learning class at the Los Angeles High School for the Arts. These segments create a learning laboratory where educators can experiment with how best to address bias and bullying, a critical skill in California’s increasingly diverse student population.
Participants who complete the full training are eligible to receive an LAUSD salary point with a multicultural credit or a graduate level extension credit through the University of San Diego.
“We hope that more individual and institutional funders will take a look at the ABCs of Conflict and our companion online conflict resolution curriculum, School Tools. We have just scratched the surface of what these trainings can accomplish,” said Barrett. “And they are needed now more than ever.”