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Middle School Fight

*All names have been changed to protect the identities of the participants.

Disruption…

It was early spring when a quiet west-side Baltimore neighborhood erupted into chaos. Marcus and Taye fought while other middle school students circled the action.  Taye joined Pine Heights Middle School halfway through the school year.  With his good looks and polite charm he instantly established himself as the new “king of the forest.”  Marcus had held that title and was willing to do anything to get it back. 

Ms. Elizabeth was disrupted from watching TV by the commotion outside.  She ran to her porch yelling, “I’m calling the police!”  Instinctively, everyone split.  The fight was the headline story at school the next day.

Suspension alternative...

School guidance counselor Ms. Redd had a decision to make—there needed to be consequences for Marcus and Taye’s actions.  Suspensions?  Ms. Redd had used Community Conferencing in the past and called the center.

The Community Conferencing Center partners with the Baltimore City Public Schools to provide alternatives to suspensions.  Cases are referred to Community Conferencing to give participants an opportunity to talk about:

  • What happened
  • How everyone has been affected
  • How to resolve the situation 

Face to face with the truth….

A trained facilitator contacted each of the families and the school staff to prepare for the Community Conference.  The circle of 15 was formed with glares, averted eyes, crossed arms and legs.  Marcus and Taye began to tell their story...as the truth slowly unraveled with questions from parents, details from the neighbor, Ms. Elizabeth, and input from Ms. Redd, a fidgety Ms. Yvonne, Marcus’ mom,  bursted with emotion, “Paul and I work alternate shifts to keep our family afloat.  I come home most nights worrying about my son... And now this!  Why did you two fight?!”

Taye’s dad, Tomas, leaned in, “Ms. Yvonne, his mother and I are going through financial struggles ourselves. We can no longer afford Boys’ Latin School, so we had to transfer Taye here.  Marcus was Taye’s first buddy at this school, but Taye started getting into trouble and Marcus was always involved so I told him to stop hanging out with Marcus. 

Marcus mumbled under his breath, “So that’s why…”

With a nudge from his dad, Taye stood up walked across the circle and extended his hand to Marcus.  “I’m sorry.”  Marcus stood, shook Taye’s hand and embraced him, “I’m sorry too.”

Ms. Redd said, “Truth is, these boys are popular, and everyone looks up to them so we need them to set the right example.”

The glares had shifted into smiles.  Everyone in the circle relaxed. The boys apologized to the school and to Ms. Elizabeth for their disturbance.  They agreed the incident was “squashed” and vowed not to fight again.

Ms. Yvonne was glad to finally meet with the parents.  She had feared sitting face to face with everyone, and was relieved to receive so much support.  She exchanged contact information with Taye’s parents.

Late spring

Marcus and Taye ended up playing on the same basketball team.  No scuffles.  No incidents.  Just good sportsmanship.

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