“They look for us — they want us to be there,” Moncion said.
Key to the success of the initiative in schools is finding adult mediators who kids can relate to — and don’t view as part of the school, Moncion said.
“Sometimes our students can’t relate to educators,” said Moncion, a former city teacher. “You want the credibility, that’s what makes it unique.”
Butts said finding “credible messengers” is a core component of violence interruption, whether on the streets or in the classroom.
“You want someone who knows what you’re going through,” he said. “You don’t have to be lectured by someone who has no clue what your life is like.”
Elijah Corporan, one of BRAG’s school mediators, said his work looks a little different each day.
Sometimes, it involves stepping into the middle of a crisis to deescalate — like when a sixth-grader got so upset at a teacher in a hallway outside Corporan’s office last week that he began “yelling, flailing his arms, crying,” Corporan said. “I was like, ‘take a second to breathe…take step back, what happened?’” he recalled.
Other days, it means working on relationships with students so they’ll trust him enough to alert him to brewing conflicts in time to intervene, he said.
Moncion said that if BRAG gets wind of a more serious conflict, the organization stations neighborhood-based violence interrupters outside school during dismissal, when violence is often most likely to erupt.
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