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Welcome to the NYSDRA blog! This blog serves as a tool to highlight current headlines, discussion topics, best practices, and viewpoints to engage directly with statewide practitioners, volunteers, partners, and advocates. NYSDRA members are welcome to post after logging in to the website. All entries will be approved by the website administrator prior to being published.


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Top tags: mediation  ADR  advocacy  anger management  anti-bullying  Baltimore  bullying  collaborative  conflict management  dispute resolution  diversity  interest based  NYSDRA  paradigm shift  planning  police  problem solving  riots  social justice  special needs 

O Baltimore!

Posted By Peter Glassman, NYSAMP Statewide Director, Friday, May 1, 2015
Updated: Wednesday, May 6, 2015

I just returned from three days in Baltimore. I was there for a conference of the Coalition for Agriculture Mediation Programs.  We were holed up in a downtown hotel – advised not to venture outside while watching horrifying video of ongoing mayhem on the local news.  Police, fire and military vehicles could be frequently seen and heard speeding by on downtown streets.


The irony was not lost on us that we had traveled from around the country to share our skills and experiences in conflict management while violent conflict raged around us.  And yet we dared not venture outside.


Hotel staff spoke of lifetimes of experiences with the Baltimore police ranging from disrespectful to appalling.


When the conference ended on Wednesday, I ventured down to the Inner Harbor.  Many Baltimoreans complain about the amount of development dollars that have been plowed into this slick, touristy area, while blight and decay overtake most other neighborhoods in the city.  An Orioles game at nearby Camden Yards was played in the stadium’s empty, cavernous expanse.  The game was closed to the public for safety reasons. Interesting business model.


There, amidst the pristine streets, glitzy Anne Taylors and Cheesecake Factorys, were hundreds of National Guard soldiers armed with automatic weapons.  Humvees were ostentatiously parked everywhere.  People cheerfully approached these soldiers to snap selfies.  A bonus tourist attraction.


Though I have lots of strong opinions on the state of race and the criminal justice system in our country – I will demur for now.  What I’d like to share is how bizarre and disconcerting these images were.  How quickly curfews and militarization can become the new normal.  And how chilling that prospect is.


I mused for a bit on the toxic level of injustice and inequality that is underscored by the contrast among the gorgeous Inner Harbor, the presence of military personnel and equipment, and the poverty, blight and hopelessness that exists mere blocks away.  I cogitated on the role we as dispute resolution professionals could play in righting these wrongs.  


Then I went to the Aquarium. 

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Tags:  Baltimore  mediation  police  riots 

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Is My Child With Special Needs Being Bullied?

Posted By Tara Fishler, NYSDRA Board President, Tuesday, April 28, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, May 5, 2015

One in four kids in the U.S. is bullied on a regular basis. That’s bad enough, but what’s worse is that according to several studies, the rates are usually two to three times higher, for children with special needs. In nearby Connecticut, more than 50 percent of tracked bullying reports involved a student with a disability or an IEP. 

While more and more schools are developing anti-bullying programs and policies, there’s still a great deal of work to be done, particularly for kids with special needs. For many of these kids, their parents will always remain their primary advocate.

The good news is, there are proactive steps that parents can take to protect their kids and create a healthier, more accepting environment in their schools and communities.

How Do You Know If It’s Bullying?

In the past, bullying issues were, at best, addressed haphazardly, and at worst, swept under the rug. Now, it’s taken more seriously, which is good. However, it’s also created confusion, because “bullying” has become a catch-all phrase for all kinds of peer conflicts, such as teasing and other relationship issues. In addition, since a child with special needs may not be able explain exactly what’s happening, how do you know if it’s a bullying situation or just “kids being kids?”

Bullying is defined as behavior that is intentional, aggressive and negative, carried out repeatedly against one or more targets. Bullying occurs in relationships where there is an imbalance of power between the parties involved.

Evaluating the balance of power in a conflict is often the best way to identify bullying versus teasing. If one party is afraid of the other, it’s more likely to be a bullying situation. When a child has special needs, it can be especially hard to tell what is really going on.

Why Kids with Special Needs Are Targeted

Littman Krooks Special Education Advocacy 

Kids with physical, developmental, intellectual, behavioral, sensory disabilities and even allergies are more likely to be bullied than others. Studies indicate that when kids have visible physical disabilities, they are more likely to be victimized.

In addition, children with special needs often have a lower baseline social standing than their fellow students, which makes them more vulnerable from the start. When part of a child’s condition includes social challenges, such as autism, Social Communication Disorder (formerly Asperger’s syndrome), and ADD or ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), the problem is intensified. Kids who have trouble holding conversations or making friends, or who have a low frustration threshold, are prime targets.

Ironically, the recent inclusion movement in schools may have actually made students with special needs more vulnerable. Special classes, aides, and technological equipment highlight the fact that these students are “different.” And being “different” can set kids up not only for social ostracism, but as the go-to target of bullies.

How to Spot if Your Child Is Being Bullied

The first indication of a bullying problem is often a change in a child’s behavior. Often, kids who are being victimized:

  • Become reluctant to go to school.
  • Start eating or sleeping poorly, or too much.
  • Lose interest in classwork and slip academically.
  • Lose interest in friends and favorite activities.
  • Become moody or get upset easily.
  • Regress in toileting and other skills.
  • Complain of headaches or stomach aches.

In addition, look for physical signs, including:

  • Cuts, bruises, or injuries that weren’t there in the morning.
  • Torn or dirty clothing.
  • Damaged or missing belongings.

If you suspect your child may be the target of bullying, document the situation and bring it to the attention of their teacher(s) and Principal. For more tips about how to handle bullying situations, visit

Tags:  anger management  anti-bullying  bullying  diversity  mediation  special needs 

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