Death and School Crisis
“It is the preparation and the planning ahead of time that I think makes a difference. It is the relationship-building with these groups that are outside school districts that really makes the benefit, because when you know somebody and you know who to call and you know the capabilities of what they are able to do, it makes that kind of response much more responsive, responsible, and proactive.” (School Superintendent)
The death of a student or school staff member can have a profound effect on the entire school community. Virtually everyone will be impacted to some degree. This module emphasizes the value of prior planning to meet bereavement needs in the context of a crisis. It also reviews practical considerations in notifying the school community about the death, as well as strategies for identifying students and staff who may need additional support. The importance of ongoing support is emphasized.
Planning ahead will help schools be better prepared to deal with a range of possibilities involving the death of a student, teacher, or other staff member.
Readiness plans 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 support 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.
- Procedures for monitoring social media content regarding the incident, the deceased, the school, students, and staff.
- Policies about funeral attendance, memorialization, and commemoration.
While crisis 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 increase the ability of schools to offer the support students and staff need.
View the video by chapters:
Importance of prior planning
Notifying the school community about the death
Identifying those in need of support and providing ongoing assistance
Supporting school staff