Can’t We All Just Get Along?

By Jamie Inferrera on September 15, 2013
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If you really knew me, when I was younger I used to get picked on a lot,” said Kyle, a senior at Putnam City West High School in Oklahoma. “I really had nobody there for me.”

Kyle’s story is just one of many that appear on MTV’s new reality television show, If You Really Knew Me, which focuses on breaking down high school stereotypes and cliques.

If You Really Knew Me digs deep into the peer conflict students in high school across the country are faced with every day. With technology such as text messaging and Facebook making communication, and thus conflict, even easier, it is no wonder peer conflict has become a major issue in schools.

Patti Farrell, a school counselor at Saucon Valley High School in Hellertown, Pa., said that she sees peer conflict occurring during class time, since students now use electronics to communicate.

“Without the face to face confrontation, students often say more offensive things with cell phones or computers,” said Farrell.

Conflict can turn into tragedy

It is important to resolve peer conflict from the moment it begins, to avoid potential negative consequences such as violence. This has been further reinforced over the past year by a number of conflict-related tragedies, such as the suicide of 15-year-old Phoebe Prince in Massachusetts.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 71 percent of students report being bullied, either verbally or physically, on at least one occasion by peers. Confronting a peer who is a bully can be quite a daunting task. In fact, as a result of bullying, statistics indicate that 5 percent of students reported that they had skipped school or extracurricular activities because they were fearful.

Emily Hawk, a junior at Buena Regional High School in Buena, N.J., said that peer conflict stems from many situations at her school, from cast lists at choir practice to relationships.

“Whether true or untrue, rumors always upset people,” Hawk said.

Your counselor can help

If confronting another student involved with peer conflict was unsuccessful or it could potentially be unsafe to do so, it is best to consult with a counselor or other school professionals about handling the situation. Often, school officials have specific steps for mediation and resolving the issue before it escalates to involve other peers.

Farrell suggests that students should not confront escalating peer conflict on their own, but rather contact a guidance counselor who is trained to aid in resolving peer conflict.

“We encourage students to find a personal sense of strength and to look at options before reacting,’” Farrell said.

Hawk holds true to a rumor-squashing philosophy she developed to help sort through peer conflict and to hopefully stop the spreading of negative talk about fellow students.

“When I hear something negative about someone, I do not repeat it unless I know it is true and not a personal issue,” Hawk said.

Many high schools, such as Saucon Valley, have programs where faculty and staff identify instances of peer conflict between students. With the use of communication devices, peer conflict can occur rapidly with the press of a button.

“If people can learn to overcome the temptation of gossip, high school would be a much better place,” said Hawk.

About the Author

Jamie Inferrera

Jamie Inferrera

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