The Total Child

Plan Ahead to Cope With Death and School Crisis

(Coordinated School Health, National Awareness) Permanent link

A guest post by Dr. Tom Demaria from the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, who develops a number of topical articles on bereavement for the Coalition to Support Grieving Students. This blog is a follow-up to the post from November 28, 2016 " Death In a School Community: Four Goals for Supporting Students"

 A death in a school community has a deep impact. The loss will usually touch many individuals—students and staff alike, often the entire school.

It is vital that schools plan ahead to be prepared to deal with a range of possibilities involving the death of a student, teacher or other staff member. Plans should include:

  •  Procedures for informing staff, students and their parents/guardians.
  •  Guidelines about what information is appropriate to share, both generally and in specific situations (for instance, what should be said in cases of suicide, violent death, death after a long illness).
  •  Procedures for providing appropriate supportive services for students and staff. This often includes establishing partnerships with community professionals before an event occurs.
  •  Guidelines for both students and staff about interacting with media.
  •  Policies about funeral attendance, memorialization and commemoration.

 All schools should have a school crisis team in place that develops the response plan and reviews it regularly. While these events are inevitably challenging, having an effective plan in place allows schools to respond quickly in a thoughtful and productive manner. While it will not take away the pain people feel about the death, it will offer the greatest likelihood of offering the support students and staff most need.

 Find out more about the specific steps schools can take at the website for the Coalition to Support Grieving Students (www.grievingstudents.org). AASA  is a member of the Coalition.