When an Entire School is Affected

When an Entire School Is Affected

The death of a member of the school community—a student, teacher, or other staff member-can have a profound impact on the entire school. Teachers and other staff will have extra responsibilities to provide students with information and support and to monitor their reactions and adjustment. Often, virtually everyone will experience some sort of emotional response to the death. This can sometimes involve strong feelings of grief among many or all students and staff.


It is important for schools to set up a system for offering students and staff support. This includes having school staff and/or consultants who have experience and skills in providing support after a school crisis and who are available to talk with staff and students in both group and individual settings.The goals of support for students include the following:


Some types of deaths that may touch a school community are especially complicated. They might involve major crises, such as a natural disaster, an industrial accident, a violent incident in the school or community, or an act of aggression or terrorism that directly affects the local community. Providing support to students after such events involves many of the same principles that are described throughout this book, as well as other important steps.

Planning for and responding to such major events is not the focus of this chapter or the book, but it is vitally important for schools. For those interested in learning more about how to develop school crisis preparedness and response plans, as well as how to train school crisis teams, we recommend the handbook developed by members of the NCSCB.

School Crisis Plans: Responding to a Death

Schools should have a school crisis team in place that has developed a response plan in the event of a death in the school community. The plan should cover how notification of a death is handled, and it should address such matters as who is notified, how people are reached, and what is said. Typically, this includes the following steps:

Following these steps gives schools a better opportunity to ensure that students learn of the death in an appropriate setting-that is, with a familiar teacher who has been prepared and is ready to make the announcement. Students can then be connected to support services more easily and effectively.

Reprinted with permission from The Grieving Student: A Teacher's Guide, by David Schonfeld, M.D., & Marcia Quackenbush, M.S., M.F.T., C.H.E.S. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Co., Inc. 2010. www.brookespublishing.com.

For more information, please visit the acig_NationalCenter.jpgNational Center for School Crisis & Bereavement.

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