MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Shelby County Schools has created a program trying to help resolve conflict among students in its schools.

MSCS released data showing more than 3,300 fights among students since the start of the school year in August of 2022.

Through a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, the district implemented a program to help students Re-imagine Emotions Through Open Restorative Engagement — also known as R.E.S.T.O.R.E.

“If they don’t learn these soft skills and really how to manage conflict and manage relationships now, then they’re not going to know it when they’re adults,” said Angel Hargrave, the Executive Director of Student Equity Enrollment and Discipline.

Hargrave says the program’s purpose is to give students and staff the tools and skills to resolve conflicts peacefully.

Representatives from 25 schools were chosen to be a part of the PILOT program to spread the knowledge they learned to their peers. “We want to give these students an opportunity to tell us also how they think we can help them,” said Hargrave.

DeMarquiese Irby, a seventh grader at A. Maceo Walker Middle School explains how his classmates deal with conflict. “I see them handling conflict by fighting, arguing, shoving, and pushing each other. It makes me feel like I failed them as a friend.”

Hargraves says the middle and high schools involved in the program are high-risk schools– meaning they have the highest number of students engaging in fights or other disruptive behavior. 

A. Maceo Assistant Principal, Terry Smith Sr., says while conflict at his school happens frequently, the staff understands a lot of the problem stems from the student’s home environment. 

“I’ve walked the same streets that they’ve walked. I’ve pretty much gotten into similar troubles that they’ve gone through. Just let them know that there are better options than to be physically aggressive,” said Smith.

District officials say if they see success from the program in the schools involved, they will expand it to other schools in the district.