Trigger Warnings Needed Here? (Updated 8/9/19)

At the ABA Meeting the team of Deb Eisenberg, Carol Izumi, Lydia Nussbaum, and Ellen Waldman put together a great program on trigger warnings as a part of the Legal Educators’ Colloquium.  After hearing their discussion of students having difficulties coping with some of the issue brought up during in simulations, I was a bit surprised.  In more than 17 years of teaching, not once had anyone commented in such a manner about any simulations in my classes.  And then on cue, there was one waiting for me in my class evaluation.  So, a trigger warning is going into the syllabus this semester.

After perusing some web resources and asking others for examples, I wrote what you see below which surely can use some help.  So, treat this post as a crowd sourcing exercise and make suggestions/edits in the comments below.  And, please feel free to use what I have below or the result as you like.  One thing to remember, my class is a clinic so the primary goal in our simulation exercises is to get them prepared for their experience in the local small claims court’s mediation program (under $10k in controversy).  Finally, this would appear in the section where I discuss our in-class simulations and won’t be labeled as a trigger warning.

You may find that these [roleplay] scenarios and your actual mediation experiences, our discussions of them, and your reflection on them may evoke strong feelings – animosity, disgust, discomfort, anxiety, and confusion among a bevy of others.  Our goal is not to evoke such feelings, it is to mirror what you may experience while mediating in the real world to help prepare you to handle difficult circumstances you may face in a professional manner.  If you find that you are struggling with your reaction to your experience(s) in this class, please see me.    

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Updated August 9th

Alyson Carrel (Northwestern) was kind enough to send along the passage she uses for these purposes, and it’s quite good.  With her permission I post it here to share.

PLEASE NOTE: We will conduct simulations that cover a wide range of issues that might include topics such as strong political viewpoints, physical harm, discrimination, and harassment. While it can be helpful to experience moments that challenge neutrality in a mediation skills course, I also recognize some students may experience distress stemming from these topics. I will try to signal the general topic of each simulation before assigning roles. If you have any concerns, please let me know.

And here’s my revised version which is a mashup of Alyson’s passage and my original.

Our overall goal with these simulations is to prepare you for what you may experience in the Justice Courts and our other mediation venues (EEOC, Superior Court, Arizona Legal Center).  PLEASE NOTE: In order to meet our goal, the simulations will cover a wide range of issues that might include topics such as physical harm, discrimination, and harassment in addition to involving various manifestations of interpersonal conflict.  While it is helpful to experience moments that challenge neutrality in a mediation course, I recognize that some students may experience distress stemming from these experiences.  If you have any concerns or experience any such difficulties, please let me know. 

Feel free to use any of the passages here as you like.

Note – in updating this I somehow deleted 2 excellent comments by John Lande and Susan Yates.  My apologies.

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