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There have been some useful suggestions from readers for eliminating bullying from schools, but what has been lacking so far is a discussion of conflict resolution.

Peer mediation and restorative justice programs have been implemented in many schools throughout the world. These programs are not merely tools to address specific conflicts between students and between students and teachers. Rather, they are designed to change the culture of the school itself.

One part of these programs is providing an opportunity for students to express their emotions. This is known as “empowerment” in conflict resolution parlance. The other important aspect for students is teaching them how to recognize and name the emotions of others. This is actually a skill that can be taught and practiced and that will lead to the development of empathy and compassion.

Conflict resolution programs may seem counterintuitive to some school administrators and teachers as they focus on giving students more responsibility rather than punishment. But the introduction of these programs does not mean that consequences for actions are removed from the menu of options available to school authorities. They merely add another dimension to the educational experience that can improve schools and have an effect on society at large.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

brett gross

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