Hammond Middle named `Peace School' for its reduction of fights, suspensions

March 31, 2000|By Chrystal Clifford | Chrystal Clifford,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Hammond Middle School in North Laurel has been named a model "Peace School" because of its sharp reduction in the number of fights and suspensions, state officials announced yesterday.

The Maryland Alternative Dispute Resolution Commission, chaired by Robert M. Bell, chief judge of the state Court of Appeals, said the school also was honored for its higher Maryland School Performance Assessment Program scores in every category.

"Hammond Middle School's singular achievements illustrate the critical need for peace initiatives in all of our schools," Bell said in a statement. "School administrators, faculty and students must practice, teach and be committed to effective conflict resolution to create productive learning environments."

In 1993, school officials recorded 189 incidents of violence and 96 suspensions. Last year, five fights and five suspensions were recorded. In the current school year, Principal David Oaks said three fights have occurred.

For the past five years, Hammond Middle has used a Prevention, Action and Conflict Resolution (PAR) program. PAR consists of basic guidelines that teachers follow when kids are in conflict.

"PAR describes how to deal with children," Oaks said yesterday. "You have to listen to them first. They get frustrated with adults who don't listen. We present a calm atmosphere, never raise our voices and are consistent."

He said the children know what is expected and the teachers use the same disciplinary actions. Verbal warnings are issued. Then a timeout follows in which the child works out a personal plan for improving behavior.

Rachel Wohl, executive director of the resolution commission, said Hammond was chosen as the model Peace School because it has a conflict resolution and peer mediation program that all Maryland schools should embrace.

"We need a whole-school approach where the faculty is on the same page as the students, and there is a community of respect for peace initiatives," she said. "Hammond has that holistic approach."

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