Category Archives: Ethics

Addiction Breaks Hearts of Family and Friends: Finding Support in Wayne County

Addiction is a family disease, and it is devastating our community. We are losing an unprecedented number of young people to this illness, and families need resources, education, and support. – Western Michigan University Cooley Law School Professor Lauren Rousseau, and president of the Northwest Wayne County Families Against Narcotics Chapter

Professor Rousseau is a long-time resident of Livonia and is personally acquainted with the destruction that heroin can cause.  From 2010 to 2012, she was legal guardian for a young man, also a Livonia resident, who struggled with heroin addiction and ultimately died in his teens.

“In April 2012, I lost someone I loved due to heroin addiction,” shared Rousseau. “He was a kid – only 19 years old – and I was his legal guardian. We had spent the better part of the previous year battling his disease. He had gone through part of an intensive outpatient program, but had been kicked out for using. He had done inpatient treatment twice, relapsing within 48 hours of release each time. And exactly one week after his last inpatient treatment, with his addiction once again in full force, the disease took him to the place where he lost his life. His death broke my heart, and the hearts of his family and friends. We will never be the same.”

Judge Kathleen McCann of Livonia’s 16th District Court has also personally witnessed the horrors of opioid abuse in her community, observing it escalate to epidemic proportions.

“As a sobriety court judge, I see the extraordinary pain and effort that our participants expend to finally be free of their dependency on opiates and heroin,” she said.  “Unfortunately, I have had to close too many files when parents bring me a death certificate because their child overdosed before we could reach them.”

Judge McCann sits on the advisory board of the new Northwest Wayne County Chapter of Families Against Narcotics, which will hold its first meeting at the LifeChurch annex building, located at 6900 N. Haggerty Road in Canton, on April 10 at 6:30 p.m.

Families Against Narcotics, or FAN, is a grassroots organization dedicated to eliminating the stigma associated with addiction and providing families struggling with the disease the support and resources they need.  Its membership includes people and families affected by addiction, concerned citizens, law enforcement, and leaders in health care, education, business, and religion.  Founded in 2007, FAN originated in Macomb County, and now has 12 chapters throughout Michigan, including a chapter in Oakland County that is divided into nine “regions,” each with its own monthly meeting.  Until now, there has been no FAN chapter in Wayne County.

“The public and the schools are still not in tune with how pervasive this problem is, and how young and vulnerable the population is that is being targeted,” said Judge McCann.  “Families Against Narcotics will open another avenue of information, coordination and resources to communities that are very much in need.”

Judge Linda Davis of the 41B District Court will be the keynote speaker at the chapter launch meeting on April 10.  Judge Davis is the president and founder of FAN.  She also chairs Governor Snyder’s Prescription Drug and Opioid Abuse Commission, and is the driving force behind Hope Not Handcuffs, a program that enlists police departments and volunteers to help addicts seeking recovery find immediate treatment.  She is a frequent speaker on the subject of addiction and the opioid epidemic.

The federal Centers for Disease Control recently reported that more than 52,000 people died from drug overdose in 2015, and approximately 33,000 of those deaths were due to opioid pain pills and heroin.  Michigan has been hard hit by the epidemic, losing 1,960 residents to drug overdose in 2015, a 13 percent increase over 2014 numbers.

“There is an enormous need for more addiction resources and support for families in Wayne County,” said Brian Spitsbergen, director of Community Relations for Growth Works, an adolescent and adult addiction treatment organization in Canton.  “I regularly work with young people struggling with this disease, and I am encouraged by new efforts to support parents and other family members affected by addiction.”  Spitsbergen serves as vice president of the new FAN chapter.

Andy Hopson, a Livonia resident whose son Dakota died from a heroin overdose in May 2016, also sits on the board of directors of Northwest Wayne County FAN.  He understands addiction better than most – in addition to losing his son to the disease, he’s been in recovery from substance use disorder himself since 1991.

“A big problem in getting these families the help and support they need is the stigma surrounding addiction,” Andy says.  “Families feel embarrassed and ashamed that their loved ones are struggling with this disease, and they isolate and withdraw.  What they really need to do is reach out for help.”

Jeff Jedrusik, chief of police for the city of Westland, Michigan, sits on the new FAN chapter’s advisory board along with Judge McCann.

“Throughout my career I’ve learned that the majority of residents living in northwest Wayne County believe that heroin, cocaine and synthetic drug epidemics are inner city problems and not a suburban issue,” said Chief Jedrusik.  “Eyes are not generally opened to such problems until it affects a personal friend or a family member.  Unfortunately, this is a current epidemic that is affecting all of our communities, young people and families.” 

lauren_rousseauWMU-Cooley Professor Lauren Rousseau is a strong advocate and frequent speaker on the very personal and painful topic of addiction. She was a featured  during a Unite to Face Addiction (UFAM) statewide rally held at the State Capitol in Lansing, Michigan on June 2, 2016.

The Northwest Wayne County FAN Chapter launch meeting on April 10th is free and open to all who would like to attend.  For more information, please go to the chapter’s web page at http://www.familiesagainstnarcotics.org/northwest-wayne, or send an email to nwwayne@familiesagainstnarcotics.org.

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Applauded Leadership Program Expands Participation for Community Members

The Leadership In Times of Crisis program was recently featured in, and endorsed by, the Grand Rapids Business Journal in a recent article. The successful program is now expanding participation in the next session for community members.

leadershipThe program, a one of a kind collaboration between the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, Western Michigan University and Western Michigan University Cooley Law School, is looking to encourage and craft principled leaders of integrity to lead in times of crisis. The program uses several of President Ford’s difficult and controversial decisions as vehicles for exploring leadership with integrity. The final session of the fall program, to be held Nov. 12, features Kalamazoo County Commissioner Kevin Wordelman leading a discussion on President Ford’s handling of the New York City bankruptcy and its relevance today.

Earlier sessions featured Brigadier Generals Thomas Edmonds and Michael McDaniel exploring leadership lessons from the fall of Saigon and the Helsinki Accord, and Professor Devin Schindler exploring lessons from President Ford’s pardon of former President Richard Nixon.

The class is open to all members of the community. Reservations are being taken for the next three sessions in 2017, which will be held on three Saturday mornings – one in January, February and March. Interested individuals should contact WMU-Cooley Professor Victoria Vuletich at 616-301-6800, ext. 6960, or by email at vuleticv@cooley.edu.

Participants who successfully complete the program receive a certificate from the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum reflecting their participation in the program.

The program has also received the support of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation.  The foundation provided each of the students with a copy of the DVD, Gerald R. Ford, A Test of Character,  which was commissioned by the Peter F. Secchia Family.

vuletich_victoriaWMU-Cooley Law School Victoria Vuletich teaches Professional Responsibility. She is chairperson of the American Bar Association (ABA) Center for Professional Responsibility Continuing Legal Education Committee. She was a member of the ABA Standing Committee on Client Protection 2004-2008, and was formerly president of the Shiawassee County Bar Association.

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WMU-Cooley Professor Works Polls to Secure Election Laws and Democracy

Law professors across the nation will make it their duty to work the polls on election day. WMU-Cooley Law Professor Kimberly O’Leary is just one of many at the law school who will be working all day on Tuesday, November 8, to ensure that everyone who turns out and wants to vote, gets to vote.

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She joins hundreds of attorneys and law students who turn out to help make sure voter laws are followed and people are not prevented from voting. According to the State of Michigan website, references Professor O’Leary, “Michigan has 83 counties, 274 cities, and 1,242 townships. During an election, each of these units of government requires a staff of paid workers to work at the polls.”

Additionally, Presidential campaigns recruit hundreds of volunteers and train them in election law in each state.

O’Leary volunteered in Flint in 2008 and 2012. “It is easy to complain about government and elections. But sometimes, you have to step up and help. By the time we get to a Presidential election, emotions are running high on both sides. Lawyers trained in election law can help defuse possible contentious situations.”

O’Leary found that her training as a lawyer also contributed to the ability to help with non-legal issues. “Are there enough voting machines, so that people are not waiting for hours in line? Do people know which line to stand in? Are elderly and disabled voters helped?” Often, O’Leary discovered, these kinds of issues were more important than the intricacies of voter training law.

This year, rather than being assigned to one precinct, O’Leary has been tapped to travel to a variety of precincts on behalf of the City of Flint. As an election inspector, she will help monitor the status of voting to make sure everyone who wants to vote, gets to vote.

“Our democracy relies upon the participation of its citizens,” said O’Leary. “It is easy to compromise democracy if it is too difficult to vote. Lawyers and law students can help make it easier.”

Not surprisingly, more volunteers and paid staff are present in perceived “swing” states. This is because allegations of fraud or intimidation are more likely to occur in those states. Moreover, precincts with heavier minority populations are also more likely to be the target of intimidation. Lawyers are there to ease tensions, and send a clear message to voters that someone is there to help them exercise this precious right. Professor O’Leary says, “It’s times like this that a person is proud to be an attorney.”

WMU-Cooley Law School Professor Kimberly E. O’Leary has written in the field of attorney-client counseling, housing law, diversity training, the relationship between social justice goals and clinical law offices and clinical teaching. She has presented papers at the UCLA/University of London International Clinical Scholarship Conference and the New York Clinical Theory Workshop.

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Criminal defense lawyers must remember that they are impacting the lives of a real person

“Ms. (Valerie) Newman is an inspiration. She is passionate about her work, and her words will have a lasting impact on our students and how they approach their profession.” — WMU-Cooley Associate Dean Lisa Halushka 

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Valerie Newman, an attorney with the State Appellate Defender’s office, was honored with WMU-Cooley’s Integrity Award during its Integrity in Our Communities Speaking Series this summer. The award is presented to legal professionals who demonstrate the highest integrity in their profession.

“Valerie is very deserving of this award – her civility in the criminal justice system and her belief that the system works best when attorneys work together for the common goal of achieving justice,” shared Associate Dean Halushka to the group of faculty, students and community leaders. “She has always urged students to remember that when they practice, especially if they practice criminal defense law, they must remember that they are impacting the lives of a real person. She makes clear to students to never define their clients by their worst day, weakest moment, or biggest mistake.”

In attendance was also Devontae Sanford, a young man who was recently exonerated from a quadruple homicide he was wrongfully convicted of in Wayne County. Ms. Newman, who worked tirelessly to release Devontae from prison, invited Devontae on stage to answer questions from the audience. Devontae commented that Ms. Newman was like his second mom and provided hope to him while he was in prison. He told the audience that he hoped the law students in the audience would become lawyers who cared about their clients.

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Open Forums on Policing Build New Community Relationships and Create Economic Benefits

“We don’t want to do Detroit again when 50 years later the city still hasn’t fully recovered,” stated one participant during one of several open forums on police and community relations held at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School’s Grand Rapids campus this summer. Participants not only found the forums revealing, they heard things that they hadn’t heard before, from people whom they did not yet know. They also disclosed things that they hadn’t shared in a long time if at all. In doing so, they made significant new relationships while changing old relationships for the better.

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Every forum also asked whether these gatherings, held here and across the nation, make any difference.

Failed police/community relations carry huge social and economic cost. Residents want peace and order without the sense of an oppressive occupying force. Police officers want to return home alive and uninjured, with the respect of those for whose security they risk their lives. Somewhere in that tense mix, communities find themselves torn by deadly police/resident conflict.

Forums recognized that communities tear themselves apart with resident-on-resident violence of domestic, drug-gang, mental-illness, terrorist, and other variety. They also recognized that every occupation, policing or otherwise, has its dangerous kooks and that no solution is likely to eliminate all such horrors. The forums also concluded that police have a higher duty, one that police seem fully ready to accept. One awful incident is too many, especially when the stakes so quickly spread beyond that one precious life to other lives affected by breakdowns in police/community relations.

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Fortunately, law is action logic, not simply group therapy, as helpful as talking can be for relationships, understanding, and even peace of mind. Law wants peace in neighborhoods, real peace of the physical-security kind, but with liberty, not the peace of an occupying force. So what do these forums produce?

First, we recognize new trends and circumstances. Increased access to concealed-weapon permits is one example, as are changes in local and national economies, family structure, and mental-health resources. Law and policing must recognize and respond to those changes, just as they currently are doing. Keep talking about those changes.

Second, we see the influence of new technologies, particularly smartphone video, body cameras, and social media, but also new body armor, tasers, and other disabling and protective devices. With video in particular, we now so rapidly share compelling recordings, often made all the more compelling by the unfortunate fact that they may be critically incomplete. We need to monitor and deploy these new technologies while recognizing their challenges and limitations. Judge surely, but don’t rush to judgment.

Third, we have abundant new data, some of it in those very same recordings and social-media accounts but also in digitalized hospital records of police-injury reports and records maintained and distributed by the police agencies themselves. We also find that the data is critically incomplete. While scholars are hard at work discerning patterns and trends from what data we have, we need more and better data. It’s coming. Encourage it.

Fourth, we find familiar stressors for both community and police alike. Veterans returning from undeclared wars reenter communities and join local police forces, bringing their trauma with them. Neighborhoods produce their own battle-like stresses. Medicine offers new testing and therapies for stress-induced conditions. We need to take greater advantage of those resources.

Fifth, we find opportunities for new policies, protocols, and practices, guiding officer training, rotation, relief, and testing, how to respond to citizens lawfully carrying concealed weapons, and of course when and how to intervene using reasonable and necessary force.

Talk may be cheap, but talk can work, as these themes emerge and actions follow.

I once represented in a civil-rights action a young man whom an officer shot in the back while the young man lay defenseless on the ground with his hands behind his back. I have a low opinion of human nature but high opinion of human capacity. My hope is that in talking, studying, and law reform, young men like that former client of mine will not have been shot. Let’s keep talking using words and forming relationships that promote peace, law, security, liberty, respect, and order, not violence. Let communities then flourish.

miller_nelsonBlog author Nelson Miller is the Associate Dean and Professor at WMU-Cooley’s Grand Rapids campus. He practiced civil litigation for 16 years before joining the WMU-Cooley faculty. He has argued cases before the Michigan Supreme Court, Michigan Court of Appeals, and United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and filed amicus and party briefs in the United States Supreme Court. He has has many published books, casebooks, book chapters, book reviews, and articles on legal education, law practice, torts, civil procedure, professional responsibility, damages, international law, constitutional law, university law, bioethics, and law history and philosophy. He also teaches law classes on the Kalamazoo, Michigan campus of Western Michigan University.

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Ethical Leadership: Training for Times of Crisis

We live in an era of politicians, not statesmen. Too many leaders on both sides of the aisle view the offices they hold, not as opportunities to serve the nation and its citizens, but as vehicles to fulfill their personal aspirations. This presents a crisis of leadership at a time when it is most needed. Global restructuring has caused significant issues for our government, economy, environment and for the well being of our current and future citizens.

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This crisis has driven staff of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, and faculty members of Western Michigan University and WMU-Cooley Law School to create a vehicle to educate and inspire students and community leaders to adopt the ethical leadership standards exhibited by President Ford throughout his life. Law students, WMU graduate students, and the public are all invited to enroll.

The goals of the “Leadership In Times of Crisis” class are:

1. Identify and evaluate the rights and duties of the major stakeholders in decisions.
2. Identify dynamic factors that have historically impacted the ethical behavior of leaders.
3. Acquire the ability to identify and distinguish between legal obligations, ethical obligations and personal and societal morals.
4. Acquire the ability to recognize on which of the above three principles a decision is based in whole, part or combination.
5. Demonstrate an ability to make a decision in a situation that has many valid competing interests that is informed, reasoned, legal, ethical and morally sound.
6. Create a personal approach for ethical decision making to utilize for the rest of the participants’ lives.

Faculty class leaders of both WMU and WMU-Cooley Law are nationally and internationally recognized experts in law and ethics. Topics include The Nixon Pardon, The Last Days of Vietnam and the NYC Bankruptcy. Original source materials will be used, as the goal is for the participants to come to know President Ford not just through his role and work, but as a person devoted to ethical and moral leadership.

The class consists of three sessions which will be held on a Saturday mornings in September, October and November 2016. Participants will be graded on the quality and extent of their participation in the discussions and work in class and on the quality of the paper that will be required which creates and outlines their personal blueprint of leadership that they will adopt in their roles as current and future leaders.

vuletich_victoriaThis blog author, Professor Victoria V. Vuletich joined the full-time WMU-Cooley faculty in 2008 after working with the State Bar of Michigan since 1999. As the Deputy Division Director of the Professional Standard’s Division, Prof. Vuletich advised attorneys regarding ethical dilemmas and practical issues they were facing. She is a frequent presenter on legal ethics issues and is a member of an ad hoc task force that advocated and proposed legislation to address the victimization of immigrants by “notarios.”

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Peacemaking Court: Restoring human relationships instead of punishment

vestrand_joanBlog author Joan Vestrand, WMU-Cooley associate dean and professor, launched a Peacemaking mediation program  in the Auburn Hills, Michigan, Avondale Public Schools.  The Peacemaking Court fosters good relations within schools and the community schools to help resolve disciplinary matters and interpersonal conflicts in a humane, supportive way.

Today, we know that the single greatest predictor of youth incarceration is a history of school discipline.  This problem has come to be known as the school-to-prison pipeline and blame for it is squarely placed on the Zero Tolerance school discipline policies that arose out of the Reagan-era mentality of “just say no.” These policies called for harsh discipline for perceived school misconduct. Although enacted in good intention, they backfired. They bred insidiously an outcome quite outside the goal – again, the school-to –prison pathway and this has led to a schoolhouse-to-jailhouse crisis across the nation. In fact, the United States leads the world in the percentage of citizens behind bars.

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Under Zero Tolerance, what was once considered “normal” youth behavior and misbehavior, became justification to criminalize conduct and exclude noncompliant students from the school community. Such automatic harsh consequences, irrespective of the severity of the misbehavior or the circumstances involved, proved disastrous.  In enacting these policies, there was no consideration of their potential negative impact on the welfare of the offending student or on the culture of the school.

Even worse, the cost of Zero Tolerance is without benefit. No evidence emerged that zero tolerance policies made schools safer or improved student behavior. According to a 2008 Task Force Report by the American Psychological Association, Zero Tolerance policies failed to achieve the intended goal of creating an effective school discipline system. To the contrary, research repeatedly demonstrates that suspension, expulsion, and other punitive consequences are not the solution to disruptive or even dangerous student behaviors. What we now know is that dangerous students do not become less dangerous when excluded from appropriate school settings. Instead, it’s quite often the opposite – exclude and the safety risk escalates. Youth who are not in school are at exceedingly high risk of delinquency and crime which increases the danger to everyone.

And then there is the fiscal hit we take as a nation for every drop-out. Each year’s class of dropouts drains the country of more than $200 billion annually in lost earnings and taxes. Billions more are spent on welfare, health care and other social services that flow from the problem.  Prison costs are an example. In Michigan, for the year 2013, we spent approximately $40,000 per prisoner annually, compared to about $8,000 per student.  Clearly, it is much less costly and better for society to keep a student in school – to find a better way to address behavioral issues.

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In part due to mounting societal pressure against harsh school discipline laws, Michigan’s Board of Education is seeing the light. In 2012, it asked districts to take a second look at their Zero Tolerance policies urging the abandonment of policies that exclude students from the educational process. Although the Department’s directive is advisory only, numerous districts have begun to replace punitive practices with restorative ones. Schools are shifting towards programs and policies that meet the developmental needs of youth. Punishment is giving way to practices that allow students to problem-solve, dialogue, and build positive relationships. We are realizing that to raise a healthy and productive member of society, we must provide meaningful, authentic opportunities for youth to be active participants in making decisions and resolving conflict.

Schools that are getting it are experiencing amazing results. Restorative justice works because these programs are centered on respect, responsibility, relationship-building, and relationship-repairing. The focus is mediation and agreement, as opposed to punishment. If a student misbehaves and a restorative justice system is in place, the offending student receives the chance to come forward and make things right.  Instead of a culture of punishment and mistrust, it’s a culture of accountability and responsibility – and training youth to be correct in their behavior.

What we now know is that positive discipline produces positive behavior. Schools that embrace restorative justice initiatives have seen suspensions decrease by 50% or more, and disrespect for teachers has declined.  Students are more focused on their studies and attend classes in greater percentage. The suspensions and expulsions which often led students to fall behind, drop-out, and enter the juvenile justice system, have subsided, putting a halt to the school-to-prison pipeline. As one educator has put it, the whole thing boils down to a shift in perspective.  It’s seeing the truth that “My student is not giving me a hard time – my student is having a hard time.” Marvin Berkowitz, the Director for the National Center for Character Education preaches to teachers all over the country that “we can’t teach through a rat.” Personal turmoil, problems at home, lack of support, abuse, and neglect – these rats come right into the school with the child. Berkowitz says that to get anywhere with a youth, we must first address the rats.  To ignore them is solid barrier to success. For change to take place, root issues must be exposed and dealt with.

Peacemaking March 1

Here at WMU Cooley, we are helping in this.  A few years back, we designed a high school Peacemaking Court that has our students supervising high school students in resolving peer conflict and other misbehavior in a positive way – one which avoids punishment. The project, in place at Avondale High School in north Oakland County, is a partnership with our Auburn Hills campus.  In the program, adults stand down.  Instead, high school students (the peacemakers) trained and supervised by law students, work with their peer to correct behavior and repair any harm. Using a circle process and a talking piece, the students work to build trust with their peer and to create a safe place for honest dialogue.  In other words, they give gentle nudge towards introspection and amends.

What typically begins as an intervention involving a closed-off, un-invested classmate, peer-to-peer, transforms into something very special. Typically, by mid-proceeding, comes recognition by the classmate that the care and support is genuine and the classmate starts to open up.  It’s like the budding of a flower. Demeanor changes and the classmate is now leaning into the circle and making eye contact. Responses grow considered and thoughtful. There begins the hint of a smile and more smiles, and laughter often erupts as bonds develop. The armor loosens and the guard comes down.

With this transformation, the real work – the heart work – can begin. Tender inquiries probe for root issues and solutions, including what needs to happen to repair any harm. The kids who spin this gold? Again, their one very special qualification is their co-peer status and with it their ability to identify –truly identify with their classmate. They, too, are works in progress – far from perfect with many mistakes of their own – and a personal character still very much under development. Often they have experienced similar problems. They can relate and can empathize.  By the same token, they can get very real very quickly and see past the malarkey. They have an uncanny knack for holding their peer accountable and for helping their classmate realize the errors in their ways and the harm not just to others, but themselves.  It is peer-generated tough love at its finest. The cheering and support upon pivotal insights, and recognition, and oftentimes tough reality checks, come from the heart.  And, from the smile on the classmate’s face, they are received in the same way. In these moments, hearts are expanding all around, in benefit of everyone. It’s the power of love – the true antithesis to exclusion and best remedy for broken soul.

Again, with peer peacemaking, what begins at opening ceremony as dubiousness and mistrust gives way to  a kind of evident joy that only comes from being basked in the care and support of others. For every case we’ve held, the tide has turned for the classmate involved. Troubling history of suspensions and in-school detentions for defiant and insubordinate behavior, have resolved themselves into new friendships,(the peacemakers)and better choices – ones that are kinder to self and more respectful of others.

Perhaps best of all –every student that is the subject of peacemaking, becomes a peacemaker, paying it forward. One such student, who came into the peacemaking process with a terrible attitude and two year record of discipline to show for it, and who was referred because the school had exhausted all other options, was so changed by the experience that he advocates peacemaking as first stop for every struggling student. He feels that had this happened for him, things would have been different, much sooner.  The high school is listening.  Thrilled with the results of the program, they would like to have peacemaking available every day of the week and we’ll work hard to make that happen.

It’s been a terrific community partnership with what are actually unsurprising but extremely gratifying results, for all concerned. It’s a win-win for everyone involved. The law students are learning to question the effectiveness of a punishment-based system in favor of a more humane approach – one that actually seeks to change behavior and repair relationships.  This s far cry from the law’s traditional focus on the offense, only, in disregard for any emotional factors involved.

The high school peacemakers are learning the same thing – that dispute resolution, in order to be effective, must be positive. Equally significant, in recognition that the role of peacemaker is an important one, which holds them out as an example, they have stepped up their own character accordingly.  They have strived to become what they stand for. Their personal growth is also product of the trust placed in them by the school.  After all, this program gives them a stake in their own school community – which in the past has been a rare, if not unheard of opportunity.  It empowers them with a voice and a role in what happens with their peers. They feel important and valued to have this responsibility – all very good and very necessary stuff for best school culture. There is a third aspect to their growth – one that at first blush might come as surprise, but not when we think it through: the peacemakers are helped by their classmate. It’s like the bumper sticker about rescue dogs that wisely poses the question: “Who rescued who?” Take the time to help someone else – and your own heart expands. Look what it did for the Grinch: his heart grew three sizes the day he finally put others first. A program like this helps to build empathy and respect, extremely important traits for assurance of a successful democracy in a country that embraces capitalism.

For the classmate who is the subject of peacemaking, the impact of this program is first seen on their face, and then in their change. Another benefit, though, is that upon successful completion of any amends, no record is kept of the incident.  This is how true second chances look.  No baggage, no stigma, and no scarlet letter; just reacceptance and a fresh start.  Equally beneficial, the classmate becomes part of the solution – serving as a peacemaker in future cases.

COA and Peacemakers

Our program has garnered both local and national attention and accolades.  It received the 2012 Eastern Leaders Group Leadership Award and was the subject of lectures and instruction at the St. Louis, Missouri National Center for Character and Citizenship as part of their Carnegie Project for Social Justice.  In addition, by request we have presented on the project at Native American Peacemaking conferences held in northern Michigan, sharing the information so that others may replicate the work.  Next January, we will be presenting on the project at a national conference of special education administrators in California.

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