From the

Official News Magazine of the Diocese of Spokane

Deacon Eric Meisfjord, Editor
P.O. Box 48, Spokane WA 99210
(509) 358-7340; FAX: (509) 358-7302

RAP process helps Cataldo students defuse conflict

Story and photo by Bonita Lawhead, Inland Register staff

(From the Dec. 19, 2002 edition of the Inland Register)

Cataldo School’s RAP program helps students respect and protect one another. (IR photo)

Another Catholic school has established student programs that work to teach respect and stop bullying.

Cataldo Catholic School on the south side has adopted two programs that complement each other. Peer Mediation, a national program, is used in a formal conflict-resolution process. RAP, which stands for Respect and Protect, is used for the everyday situations that can arise between students during school hours.

Cataldo’s RAP program evolved from the anti-bullying program called RALLY, used at St. Thomas More Catholic School in north Spokane. Two teachers from St. Thomas More gave presentations about RALLY to Cataldo staff. RAP was developed over the summer months and put in place last fall, shortly after school started.

RAP is designed to give students the tools they need to resolve conflict. RAP also trains older students to help the younger ones. The sixth grade teachers train their students to be “RAP-pers” who, two at a time, patrol the playground during recess for the K-5 grades. Clipboard in hand, they keep watch for any potentially troubling situations that might develop.

If a student asks for assistance, then the RAP process is followed. An information sheet – a RAP sheet – geared to the different grade levels, helps students know exactly what to do, with step-by-step instructions.

Children are asked to stop and think: “What is bothering me? What do I want to have happen?” RAP’s steps lead them to think through the situation and how they might resolve the conflict.

One cautionary note: students learn right away that if they feel the situation is unsafe, they can report to an adult.

“When kids are having conflicts, we want them to solve their own problems,” said vice-principal Molly Hughes, head of student affairs for Cataldo. The RAP process gives them those problem-solving skills.

Another part of the RAP programs helps students when they see something happen that they know is wrong. The step-by-step process begins with “Stop and think. Is my help needed?” If it is, then the RAP process of taking action follows. That action could include reporting to an adult if the students deems the situation unsafe.

Occasionally, a situation in the RAP program will lead to Peer Mediation. Students in grade six through eight can request Peer Mediation if they become involved in conflict. Students ask for mediation only if their own efforts to solve the problem have failed.

In mediation the participants sit down with the mediator and go through the step-by-step process of conflict resolution. The last step is a contract signed by both parties. There are consequences if the participants fail to live up to the contract.

Specially-trained eighth graders mediator and recorder to facilitate the process. Each mediator handles one situation, and then the recorder becomes the next mediator with a new recorder assigned.

Eighth graders Megan Higgins, Chrissy Topliff, and Jack DeWenter talked about their experiences as mediators. Higgins is currently the mediator and Topliff, the recorder. All three find great value in the mediation process, for themselves as well as the other students.

“It’s helpful for the younger kids,” Higgins said.

Topliff agreed, saying that as students “go into high school, it will help them solve their own problems.”

DeWenter said there are “lots less problems and I’m happy to be able to assist (students) in solving them.” DeWenter said he has always been able to talk easily to people, but the mediator training strengthened that skill.

Both Topliff and Higgins said the training helped them to be “more relaxed and more comfortable” with the process. Another benefit was understanding conflict resolution. “It (the training) helps me see both sides,” Topliff said.

The two programs started last fall, and Hughes said results were obvious right away. She has had very few students sent to her office. “It’s very calm this year.”

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