Parents will want information when a death has occurred in the school. Depending on the nature of the emergency, the entire community may be affected. By issuing press/media statements you will meet some of the community's need for information, however, special communications to parents may be extremely helpful in gaining their support for the school and in reaching satisfactory closure to the crises. Parent Communications By Phone:
- Use active listening skills to calm an upset parent.
- Contact the parents of any student who has had a difficult time coping with the death and give suggestions on how to offer support at home plus information on community mental health resources.
- Reassure parents that the school is responding to the emergency and describe the response activity.
Guidelines For Written Communication To The Parents:
Depending on the impact of the death, a letter may be sent home with every student in the class or classes involved and in some cases with the entire school. This letter could include the following information:
- Information about the death that has occurred.
- What the children have been told.
- Grief reactions that the parents might expect to see in their children.
- How to respond to their children.
- Resources available to the parents.
- Steps the school is taking to cope with the situation.
Guidelines For Parent Meetings:
The general experience of school personnel holding large group or assembly meetings for parents has been that these meetings tend to add contagion to the crises rather than to minimize the impact for the community. The recommendations for parent meetings are for small group meetings to be held off school premises, if possible, perhaps in neighborhood centers. Some schools have successfully conducted parent meetings by assigning small groups to classrooms and arranging for two facilitators for each group. If a meeting is held off campus, staff should attend the meetings to reassure parents that the school is responding to the emergency. Any parent meeting should be conducted during after-school hours.
An alternative to group meetings may be to offer parents drop-in counseling during after-school hours. This arrangement should be offered for no more than one school week.