The New Jersey State Bar Foundation (NJSBF), long a provider of quality professional development training for educators, has established a new mini-grant program to support peer mediation in K-12 schools.

The $500 mini-grants can be used to start or enhance an already existing peer mediation program in elementary and secondary public, private or charter schools across New Jersey. Any school that sends staff members to the NJSBF’s peer mediation training after Sept. 2018 may apply.

Peer mediation is a conflict resolution process where students mediate conflict resolution sessions among their peers. Studies have shown that peer mediation is an effective way to improve social skills, increase academic achievement and raise self-esteem. What’s more, studies have shown that students prefer their own peers to adults when it comes to trying to manage disputes, and that about 85 percent of disputes that go through peer mediation are resolved.

“We all get into conflicts, including our children,” said Barbara A. Nagle, an attorney and longtime NJSBF trainer for peer mediation and conflict resolution programs. “Being able to resolve those conflicts is a great skill…students who are in conflict, who can’t resolve it on their own, can go to trained peer mediators who will provide a safe environment and help them negotiate with one another.”

Peer mediation programs are good for both students and the school environment, Nagle said. “It’s preparing everyone to be an adult—the mediators and the disputants.”

The foundation’s peer mediation training focuses on, among other things, how to implement and sustain a student-based program, how to train students to be peer mediators and how mediation has been proven to reduce incidents of school violence. Each participant receives applicable posters and handouts to aid them in developing a relevant peer mediation program for their school.

This fall, the foundation released a brand-new, updated guide, The FAQs of Peer Mediation, at educator workshops. The guide, co-authored by Nagle, Paula Eisen and NJSBF Director of Conflict Resolution and Anti-Bias Initiatives Elissa Zylbershlag, addresses frequently asked questions and includes forms, lesson plans and materials for educators. The daylong workshops are free for educators and professional development credits are available.

Participants interested in the mini-grant program must apply by April 18. Applications will only be distributed at peer mediation trainings. Funding can be used for training supplies, materials or photocopies, awards and giveaways for students and refreshments.

For more information, email Zylbershlag at ezylbershlag@njsbf.org, or visit njsbf.org.

The NJSBF is the charitable arm of the New Jersey State Bar Association. The foundation receives 12.5 percent of the net revenue from New Jersey lawyer IOLTA accounts, and disburses those funds for public programs on justice and education about the law.

Foundation executive board members include Susan Feeney, NJSBF president; Norberto A. Garcia, first vice president; Kathleen N. Fennelly, second vice president; Charles J. Stoia, treasurer; Ralph J. Lamparello, secretary; and Lynne Fontaine Newsome, immediate past president.