• Grief-Sensitive Schools Initiative - Why does it exist?

Most educators and school professionals will encounter grief in the classroom firsthand: An estimated 1 in 15 children will experience the death of a parent or sibling by age 18*, and a vast majority will experience some kind of close personal loss before graduating from high school. Grief’s impact on children can be far-reaching, with potential to lead to serious behavioral issues and poor school performance when it goes unsupported.

Educators and school community members – as trusted, consistent adults in students’ lives – have an important opportunity to extend support. But most are under-prepared to do so. A survey conducted by the New York Life Foundation in conjunction with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) revealed that only 7 percent of teachers had received training to support bereaved students, while 92 percent of educators felt that childhood grief was a serious problem deserving more attention from schools. In recent years, tragic school shootings across the U.S. have only created additional urgency and concern around addressing issues of grief and death at school.

As the largest corporate champion of childhood bereavement support over the past decade, the New York Life Foundation has long been committed to improving the ability of schools to reach the grieving students. In 2013, the Foundation partnered with the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement to convene the Coalition to Support Grieving Students, a collaboration among leading K-12 professional organizations to develop and deliver best-in-class grief-support resources to educators through a dedicated website, grievingstudents.org. GSSI is an extension of the Coalition’s work, serving to direct schools and school districts to accessible grief resources to empower even more educators to support their students.

* Results from the Childhood Bereavement Estimation Model (CBEM) developed by Judi’s House/JAG Institute www.judishouse.org/CBEM Cited statistics reflect findings from the New York Life Foundation’s 2017 Bereavement Survey as well as a 2012 survey of educators conducted by the New York Life Foundation in partnership with the American Federation of Teachers