Academia Role-Play:

Williams v. Northville


Kate Harvey and David Kovick, under the supervision of Lawrence Susskind and Jennifer Brown

5-person, non-scorable mediation between a school principal and a parent (with attorneys) regarding a values-based dispute over classroom discussions and materials addressing same-sex couples and their families


Please note: you must order a copy (a.k.a. license/usage fee) for every person participating in the simulation in your course. This simulation has multiple roles, so you will be unable to complete your purchase without meeting the minimum quantity requirement of copies per role.

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PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center

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Soft copy vs. hard copy

You may order this role simulation in either soft copy (electronic) or hard copy (paper) format. If you select the soft copy option, you will receive an e-mail with a URL (website address) from which you may download an electronic file in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. You will have one week to download your materials from when you receive the email. You are then only authorized to use, print, or share the materials as many times as the number of copies you purchase. The TNRC charges for use of this simulation on a per-participant basis. Therefore, you must purchase a separate copy of this simulation for each person who will be participating, regardless of the number of roles in the simulation. You will only receive a link to one electronic file, which includes all general instructions, confidential instructions, and any teaching notes for the simulation. You should separate out the instructions before distributing to participants.

If you select the hard copy option, you will receive paper copies of this role simulation via the shipping method you select.

For additional information about the soft copy option, please visit our FAQ section, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at or 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.) or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.).

Please note: At the present time, Teaching Negotiation Resource Center soft copies are compatible with the following versions of the Adobe Acrobat Reader: English, German, French, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean. If you have a different version of the Acrobat Reader, you may wish to download one of these at, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at, 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.), or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.) for further assistance. This restriction does not apply to the freely available Teacher’s Package Review Copies.

Ordering a single copy for review

If you wish to review the materials for a particular role simulation to decide whether you’d like to use it, a PDF, or soft copy, version of the Teacher’s Package for the simulation is available as a free download from the description page of most role simulations and case studies. All Teacher’s Packages include copies of all participant materials. In addition, some Teacher’s Packages (but not all) include additional teaching materials such as teaching notes or overhead masters.

Ordering copies for multiple participants

To order multiple copies of a role simulation for use in a course or workshop, simply enter the total number of participants in the box next to “Quantity.” There is no need to calculate how many of each role is required.

If you are ordering hard copies, the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center will calculate the appropriate numbers of each role to provide, based on the total number of participants. For example, if you wish to order a 2-party role simulation for use with a class of 30 students, you would enter “30” in the box next to “Quantity.” You then would receive 15 copies of one role and 15 copies of the other role, for use with your 30 participants. As another example, if you ordered 30 participant copies of a 6-party role simulation, you would receive 5 copies of each role.

In the event that the number of participant copies you order is not evenly divisible by the number of roles in the simulation, you will receive extra copies of one or more roles. Participants receiving the extra roles may partner with other participants playing the same role, thus negotiating as a team. So, for instance, if you ordered 31 copies of a 2-party role simulation, you would receive 15 copies of the first role and 16 copies of the second role. One of the participants playing the second role would partner with another participant playing that same role, and the two would negotiate as a team.

Bulk Pricing Discount

For bulk orders, we offer the following pricing discounts. Please note that these only apply to bulk orders of the same simulation.

  • Between 100-250 copies – 10% discount
  • Between 251-500 copies – 25% discount
  • More than 500 copies – 50% discount
Log In or Register to download the free Teacher's Package Sample.


This is a five-person, non-scoreable negotiation simulation focused on mediating values-based legal disputes, specifically disputes involving potentially conflicting interests around issues of homosexuality and religious faith. Based on a real case, this simulation focuses on a dispute between a public school and parents over classroom discussions and materials depicting same-sex couples and their families. It also explores the role of attorneys representing their clients in negotiated agreements around values-based disputes.

In Williams vs. Northville, Jim and Jan Williams are the parents of two elementary school children in the Northville Public School System. A dispute arose between the Williamses and the school system about materials in the school's diversity curriculum that presented homosexual relationships and families headed by same-sex couples. J. Williams asked the school principal, S. Smith, for advance notification anytime homosexuality, same-sex marriage, or families headed by same-sex couples would be raised in class and that the Williams children be excused from class during these discussions. Principal Smith denied Williams' request, explaining that no parental notification was required to discuss homosexual families in class in this way.

The Williamses filed a lawsuit against the school district in state court asserting a parental right to have their sons excused from the parts of the curriculum that were contrary to their religious beliefs. The judge in the state trial court resolved the legal situation raised by the Williamses in favor of the school district, holding that parents do not have the right to restrict what a public school may teach their children. This simulation begins at the point where the Williamses have filed an appeal to the lower court's decision. Prior to oral argument in the case, the administrator of the appellate court mediation program has urged the parties to attempt to mediate the dispute.



  • Participant Materials include:
  • General Instructions for all Parties


Confidential Instructions for:

  • J. Williams, parent (negotiating on behalf of his/her spouse)
  • S. Smith, Northville Elementary School principal
  • L. Gibbs, attorney to J. Williams (MassResistance)
  • M. Gonzalez, attorney to S. Smith (City of Northville)
  • C. Nichols, court-appointed mediator


Teacher's Package includes:

  • All of the above
  • Jennifer Gerarda Brown, Peacemaking in the Culture War Between Gay Rights and Religious Liberty, 95 Iowa Law Review 747 (2010).
  • Teaching Notes



The key teaching objective is to demonstrate that assisted negotiation (i.e., mediation) can be used to resolve values-based disputes, not just interest-based disputes. With the assistance of a mediator, the parties and their attorneys can craft a settlement that does not require them to compromise their fundamental values. Key teaching points include the importance in values-based disputes of avoiding threats to individual identity, stressing the human element, focusing on ongoing relationships, focusing on overarching values, and focusing on individual interests as well as values.


Williams v. Northville is one of a 3-part series of simulations focused on the mediation of values-based disputes. The other two simulations in the series are Ellis v. MacroB and Springfield OutFest.

If you wish to purchase all three simulations at a discount we have a bundle option available click here. You can also download a PDF version of "Teaching about the Mediation of Values-Based and Identity-Based Disputes".

Williams v. Northville Attributes

Time required: 2-3 hours
Number of participants: 5
Teams involved: Yes
Agent present: Lawyer
Neutral third party present: Mediator
Scoreable: No
Teaching notes available: Yes