“Arguing with Kindness”: Mediation at the Upper School

This fall, the Upper School Mediation team logged into Zoom to participate in the third annual National High School Mediation Tournament, which Principia pioneered and has hosted since its inception. The tournament represents the culmination of months of preparation, as students take turns acting as advocate, client, and mediator in the hopes of effectively arguing their case, resolving conflict in their favor, and acting as peacemakers.

Mediation tournaments like Principia’s give students invaluable experience advocating, mediating a dispute, and acting as mediation clients. Students tackle real-world cases and are judged on their ability to work effectively as an advocate-client pair or as mediator. Senior Vikram Ganes explains, “You get to learn the different sides of a case and how to find the pros and cons for each side. The best part is learning how to mediate and resolve the conflict by taking both sides into consideration and getting a favorable outcome for both sides.”

Hosting the tournament since 2020, the virtual format has allowed Principia to extend its mediation reach across the country, with the support of the International Academy of Dispute Resolution (INADR), an organization that runs tournaments like this at the college- and law school-level.

The tournament was renamed the National High School Mediation Tournament in recognition of its expanded reach this year, as high schools from Arizona, Iowa, Missouri, and North Carolina—and one middle school team from STEAM Academy for gifted students—came together to compete. Patti Fox, co-coach of the Principia team, says, “It has been exciting and encouraging to see people’s receptivity and recognition of the value of mediation.”

Principia’s team excelled this year as both advocate-client pairs and as mediators. Quinna McCarty and Wylie Walters placed first in the advocate-client competition. Quinna also earned an honorable mention as a mediator and as part of a separate advocate-client pair with Rhiannon Lewis. Principia had two other advocate-client pairs receiving honorable mention—Aria Jones and Vikram Ganes, and Jesse Gathungu and Nina Okike.

Regardless of the students’ eventual careers, these tournaments help them sharpen skills essential in ordinary, daily life. “These tournaments provide a perfect vehicle for students to hone important skills that help them be better leaders equipped to make meaningful contributions to our world and be caring global citizens that will certainly help the betterment of humanity,” says Fox.

Students recognize their own growth throughout the process as well. “Being on the Mediation team has so many benefits,” says junior Quinna, “like teaching students how to resolve disputes harmoniously and respectfully while still advocating for your side effectively. I've learned to argue with kindness, to balance standing up for what you believe in while still prioritizing resolution.”