The Coalition to Support Grieving Students is a unique collaboration of the leading professional organizations representing classroom teachers (including teachers, paraprofessionals, and other instructional staff), principals, assistant principals, superintendents, school board members, and central office staff, student support personnel (including school counselors, school nurses, school psychologists, school social workers, and other student support personnel), and other school professionals who have come together with a common conviction: grieving students need the support and care of the school community.
The Coalition’s purpose is to create and share a set of industry-endorsed resources that will empower school communities across America in the ongoing support of their grieving students.
The Coalition to Support Grieving Students has come together to remedy a current gap in the educational professions: the development of a set of resources broadly approved by leading professional organizations to guide teachers and other school personnel in supporting and caring for their grieving students. The primary resource, a practitioner-oriented website—grievingstudents.org—provides practical, accessible information for classroom teachers, principals, administrators, and student support personnel. This user-friendly, interdisciplinary site represents a major step forward in enabling teachers to learn about the issue of childhood grief and develop an understanding of how to help. Informed by the expertise of leading bereavement expert David J. Schonfeld, M.D., with feedback and contribution from each participating organization, this online resource uses a dynamic multimedia approach to present current best practices for addressing grief at school.
Why We Exist
Childhood bereavement is all too common: in the United States, approximately one in 20 children will lose a parent by the time they reach 16 years of age and the vast majority of children experience a significant loss by the time they complete high school. Yet grieving children are vastly overlooked—both in society at large and in schools in particular. Schools have a critical role to play in the grief journeys of children who have lost a loved one. Teachers’ and classmates’ responses to a student’s grief can either serve as a source of support and stability during a difficult time, or as an additional hurdle to surmount. Moreover, grief can have a serious impact on learning for school-age children; bereavement can manifest itself in decreased academic performance, social withdrawal, and behavioral problems.
By demonstrating support, teachers have an enormous opportunity to improve outcomes for their students. Unfortunately, the vast majority of teachers feel unequipped for this task. In a survey on grief at school conducted by the New York Life Foundation in conjunction with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), nearly 7 in 10 teachers (69%) reported having at least one grieving student currently in their classrooms. While 89 percent of teachers believe that there should be a greater focus on training teachers to support grieving students, only 7 percent reported having had any amount of bereavement training. Teachers desire, but currently lack, the knowledge of how to support the grieving students in their midst and identify this as the single greatest barrier preventing them from reaching out and offering support.
Lead Founding Members
The Coalition was convened by the New York Life Foundation, a pioneering advocate for the cause of childhood bereavement, and the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement, which is led by pediatrician and childhood bereavement expert David J. Schonfeld, M.D. New York Life Foundation, a long-standing supporter of teachers and kids, has brought Coalition materials to the educational community through the grievingstudents.org website.
The National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement (NCSCB) at the University of Southern California (USC) School of Social Work was established in 2005 with initial support from the September 11th Children’s Fund and the National Philanthropic Trust. The work of the NCSCB continues thanks to the generous support of the New York Life Foundation.
The Center was created to promote the role that schools can serve to support students, staff, and families at times of crisis and loss. In order to meet this goal, the NCSCB aims to:
- Enhance training in the areas of crisis and loss for professionals who support children in schools and communities, including preservice education.
- Serve as a resource for information, training materials, consultation, and technical assistance. Consultation is provided at no charge to schools.
- Collaborate with professional, government, and community organizations and programs to help children at times of crisis and loss.
Further information and materials can be found at the NCSCB website at: www.schoolcrisiscenter.org.
If your school or school district is dealing with a current crisis event and seeks immediate advice, please contact the Center at firstname.lastname@example.org or 877-53-NCSCB (877-536-2722). General information can also be requested at email@example.com.