Baltimore Schools Employ Mediation Rather Than Punishment on Naughty Students With Positive Results

Baltimore Schools Employ Mediation Rather Than Punishment on Naughty Students With Positive Results

Note: This article may contain commentary or the author's opinion.

According to the eminent child author Charles D. Appelstein, MSW, there’s No Such Thing as a Bad Kid. That theory at several Baltimore school distracts has been successfully put to the test, thanks in part to a how educators “punish” unruly students.

Rather than taking a student out of class, or sending them to the principal’s office, revoking privileges, calling home, or worst yet, suspending them, educators in several Baltimore school districts are sending those unruly students to a meditation room where they can calm down and decompress before rejoining their classmates.

The room, dubbed the Mindful Moment room, is equipped with an assortment of emotional “toys” to alleviate stress, such as bean bags and dim lighting, that acts as a soothing mechanism, along with calming and breathing exercises employed by a team of trained staff.

The unique program has been successfully implemented at a number of Baltimore schools. For example, at Robert W. Coleman Elementary School, teachers and staff can refer students to the room for an emotional “reset” when they begin acting up.

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The troubled student is encouraged to discuss the reason for their outburst, working with a congenial sympathetic adult in hopefully resolving the specific issue.  They then come up with a plan to defuse a similar situation in the future before the student melts-down. After about 20 minutes in the room, they rejoin their classmates.

The program was started several years ago under the banner The Holistic Life Foundation, by two brothers named Altman and Ali Smith, along with their friend Andres Gonzalez.  They wanted to improve the emotional wellbeing of children living in low-income and high-crime neighborhoods where the environment can be toxic by providing a successful pathway in dealing with anger and stress.

The foundation has now implemented the program in more than 14 Baltimore area schools with the goal of improving student behavior without leveling harsh punishments that tend to have no impact.

In a recent interview with O Magazine, Gonzalez explained how once troubled kids are beginning to positively impact their own families; “That’s how you stop the trickle-down effect, when Mom or Pops has a hard day and yells at the kids, and then the kids go to school and yell at their friends.”

Gonzalez continues; “We’ve had parents tell us, ‘I came home the other day stressed out, and my daughter said, ‘Hey, Mom, you need to sit down. I need to teach you how to breathe.’”

However, aside from troubled students visiting the Mindful Moment room when stressed out, the program also incorporates a more direct approach.

Twice daily, students along with faculty take a Mindful Moment break in which they pause for 15 minutes while a staff member over the PA system leads students into breathing exercise. The recording plays every morning beginning at 10:08 am.  During this time instructors visit classrooms on a rotating basis. In March the program will begin focusing specifically on 9th grade classes, which will cut down the number of teachers in rotation to approximately 10.

Instructors go back into classes again during the afternoon at 2:09 pm to lead students into another 15-minute pause.

The program, which began in 2013, continues today with resounding success.  In fact, as a testament to their success there has been thus far zero suspensions within the last two years.