More than one out of every five students report being bullied, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics. The majority of bullying happens at school, but it can also take place on the way to school, through text messages or online (better known as cyberbullying).

At St. Mary School in Sacramento, trained peace managers are helping resolve conflicts between fellow students before they get out of control, creating a supportive school environment. Sixty-five peace managers, all sixth to eighth graders among the 138 junior high level students, must maintain good grades and be excellent citizens in order to stay in the program. They meet regularly with one another, teachers, and the school counselor to discuss incidents they’ve witnessed or prevented.

“We create peace through communication and help the younger kids with skills to resolve their own conflicts,” says eighth grader Bobby Romitti, 13, who is in his first year as peace manager and has attended St. Mary since sixth grade.

“I definitely experienced bullying myself several times, in fourth and sixth grade,” he says. “People called me names, being jerky and hurtful, and excluding me constantly from games. I got over it by playing with a different group of friends and getting away from those people. I stay away from negative kids and conflicts. When I was bullied, it would have been great to have someone older than me to talk to who was wiser and not a teacher.”

Before lunch or recess, a handful of on duty peace managers tie on their blue capes, grab a clipboard and head out to the playground. Using their eyes, ears and experience, they help students in lower grades resolve their conflicts on the spot. Every incident is noted and shared back with school staff.

The peace managers program “stops conflicts at the source and has a healing aspect for the little kids,” Bobby notes. “It helps them have a clear mind and not get in as many struggles. We help them learn the skills to solve their own problems and later they will be able to do it on their own and not need us. We are role models trying to set a good example.”

School counselor Michelle Timm, who has worked in both public and private schools for the past 18 years, has been at St. Mary School for the past seven years. The school has 304 students in transitional kindergarten to eighth grade and 34 children in the preschool. Michelle introduced the program to the campus after listening to struggling students.

(In photo above, peace managers Bobby Romitti and Ashley Tim speak with first grader Gabby Semon on the playground at St. Mary School. Photo by Cathy Joyce.)

Full story at Diocese of Sacramento website.