Bridging the Restorative Gap: Kathy Rockefeller’s Topic Circle Series for Schools

When it comes to educational systems, discipline has traditionally been reactive rather than proactive. Kathy Rockefeller sought to address this imbalance in her enlightening presentation on the Topic Circle Series (TCS) as a unique Tier II Restorative Practice for schools. Delivered with a blend of passion and expertise, Rockefeller’s approach provided an innovative alternative to standard disciplinary methods.

At the heart of Kathy’s presentation was a clear distinction between behaviors that simply occur as incidents and behaviors that become topics of concern for a school community. Unlike conventional restorative practices that often focus on either fostering community (Tier I) or addressing specific incidents of harm (Tier III), the TCS aims at the frequently overlooked middle ground. This middle ground, Tier II, acknowledges that some behaviors, while not singular harmful incidents, can erode the fabric of a school community over time. By targeting these behaviors, TCS facilitates small groups in understanding the cumulative impact of such actions and in brainstorming actionable solutions.

Rockefeller emphasized the Multi-tiered System of Supports (MTSS) framework, widely used in many schools. Under the MTSS, interventions are divided into three tiers. While Tier I covers proactive supports for all students and Tier III delves into intensive, individualized interventions, it’s the Tier II where TCS makes its mark. Rockefeller highlighted a critical oversight in current educational systems: the lack of adequate Tier II restorative practices. By addressing this gap, TCS ensures that schools have a comprehensive toolkit for managing behaviors across all tiers.

Kathy Rockefeller is no newcomer to the realm of conflict resolution and restorative practices. With a rich background that includes a J.D. and a tenure as the director of a county Mediation & Conflict Resolution Center, her journey has been marked by consistent efforts to bring about transformative change in school discipline methodologies. Her role as the School Climate Specialist for Anne Arundel County Public Schools (AACPS) in Maryland saw her pioneering the implementation of restorative practices for a vast student body of 83,000.

Her work in AACPS and earlier experiences laid the foundation for the TCS, a culmination of her efforts to make restorative practices more holistic. Beyond her roles in educational systems, Rockefeller has also been an active voice in legislative and educational spheres, advocating for restorative practices in education. As a founding member of the Circle of Restorative Practices (CRI) for Maryland, her influence and contributions have been instrumental in shaping the restorative discourse in the state.

In conclusion, Kathy Rockefeller’s presentation on the Topic Circle Series was a beacon for schools seeking a comprehensive approach to restorative practices. By spotlighting the often-neglected Tier II and offering TCS as a viable solution, Rockefeller not only addressed a crucial gap in school discipline systems but also underscored the importance of a proactive, community-centered approach to conflict resolution. In an educational landscape that’s steadily evolving, tools like TCS will play an indispensable role in fostering harmonious, resilient school communities.