New survey by the American Federation of Teachers and the New York Life Foundation explores COVID’s impact on grief support in schools.

New York Life | October 21, 2020


The New York Life Foundation has again partnered with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) to provide fresh and timely insights on the current state of grief support in classrooms across the country. The latest survey results illustrate how COVID-19 has exacerbated the grief support crisis in our nation’s schools and underscored the urgent need for greater bereavement support for students.

Even before COVID-19, grief in the classroom was an all-too-common occurrence, with an estimated one in 14 children in the U.S. experiencing the death of a parent or sibling by age 181. The survey found that educators are seeing this firsthand. When asked how many students each school year typically need their support due to the loss of a loved one, 87 percent of educators said at least one, and 25 percent said six or more.

Now, as students are returning to the classroom, educators anticipate that students will need additional support. Of the educators surveyed, more than one in four (26 percent) report that a member of their school community (including direct family members of students, teachers or staff) had died from the coronavirus and 93 percent believe that the traumatic effects of the coronavirus on students will be long-lasting.

COVID-19 is powerfully and poignantly illustrating the challenges our nation’s educators already faced in confronting grief in the classroom each and every day"

- Heather Nesle

President of the New York Life Foundation

“COVID-19 is powerfully and poignantly illustrating the challenges our nation’s educators already faced in confronting grief in the classroom each and every day. As the need grows, we all have a critical role to play in providing greater bereavement support to students wherever and however our school communities come together,” said Heather Nesle, president of the New York Life Foundation, one of the largest corporate funders of childhood bereavement support.

Even as educators are tasked this year with addressing many pandemic-related challenges, our survey indicates that educators remain strongly committed to doing more to support grieving students and want to explore additional bereavement training opportunities. Educators nearly-universally say that they would like to do more to help grieving students (95 percent), and 91 percent say that they personally would be interested in participating in bereavement training offered through their school or district.

For those school communities looking for additional grief resources, New York Life’s Grief-Sensitive Schools Initiative offers virtual presentations on grief support to any K-12 public or private school in the U.S. More information on the program is available here.

The New York Life Foundation and the AFT conducted this online survey of 675 K-12 AFT members to elevate the conversation around grief support in school, shed a light on the impact of COVID-19 on social-emotional needs and raise awareness of existing bereavement resources geared towards educators and the broader school community.

Read the entire press release here.

Read the survey results here.

Check out the related infographics.


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Media contact

Lacey Siegel
New York Life Insurance Company
(212) 576-7937