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Baltimore City School Solving Bully Problem With Words, Not Fists

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BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Solving the bully problem with words, not fists. It’s what one Baltimore City school is doing thanks to a partnership with University of Maryland law students.

Gigi Barnett explains, it’s working.

New national guidelines will soon require all schools to drop their suspension rate. One school is already doing it. But first, it starts with the right words.

The rules at this table are fair and firm. And all sides agree. This is conflict resolution at Holabird Academy in Northeast Baltimore. The school has a partnership with the University of Maryland’s School of Law.

Future attorneys sit down with students and help them hash out the dispute and decide how to resolve it.

As a result, the school is seeing a drastic drop in the number of suspensions and bullying.

“There’s no question about the fact that when kids resolve conflict better, they don’t act out as much,” said Barbara Sugarman Grochal.

She runs the program at more than 20 schools across the state. She says students learn how to take the problem-solving skills out of the classroom.

“It’s not somebody, mediators or teachers or counselors, coming in telling people what to do. It’s about helping kids, empowering them to talk through it and reach solutions,” she said.

“A lot of our kids are good at this now,” said principal Anthony Ruby.

He says students volunteer for the roundtable conversations. In the last three years, Holabird Academy’s suspension rate dropped from nearly 100–to two.

“Just punishing, just suspending, just sending home doesn’t fix anything. It’s more intense than just getting suspended. So this is actually a bigger consequence in a lot of ways,” Ruby said.

The school also points to its expulsion rate as proof this is working. For example, over the last three years they had 13 expulsions. This year, that number is down to just one.

The law school plans to focus on mediation sessions with third and fifth-grade girls who have had problems with fighting and bullying.

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