FOX13 Investigates: Conflict resolution at a local Mid-South school

MEMPHIS, Tenn. --- Students at one Mid-South school are learning how to resolve differences without hitting.

It's something sorely needed in a city where the homicide rate has skyrocketed out of control.

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In the hours before we joined Megan Cohan’s 5th grade class, 5 people were killed in Memphis including two 15-year-old boys.  One of those victims was an Overton High School Football player.

Educator Tashanae Francis was troubled by what she saw when she moved to Memphis four years ago. She said, "It was very shocking."

She found that even little children had no idea how to deal with conflict without hitting or worse.

One child taking part in Francis’ new conflict resolution program sat in the circle and confessed, "He had hit me and I hit him back and I want to say 'sorry."

The "I’m sorry" part is new. It’s a learned behavior from the conflict resolution lessons Ms. Francis is teaching at Memphis College Prep Elementary.

She calls it "Culture Circle."

She kicked it off last fall. She said children are quickly learning there is a better way to resolve their differences.

Another child wanted to get this off his chest: “You had it , took it, and threw it back at me.  That made me feel a little bit upset for throwing it at me.”

His teacher, Megan Cohan responded positively.

"Instead of reacting negatively, Cedric held on to it until CC and he brought it to Sydney. No one trying to hurt each other they just had to hear each other's story."

We asked if this is working. We learned suspensions and referrals to the Principal's office are down by 50% since the first of the school year.

Francis said,  "Scholars are actually bringing situations to them or telling them, ' I would love to talk about this during Culture Circle instead of attacking each other or being confrontational."

The goal is to make sure these beautiful 10-year-olds don't end up another statistic in five years.

With measurable,  positive results in the classroom, this kind of conflict resolution training may be worth a try in every Mid-South school.

Link to school website: http://memphiscollegeprep.org/