Guidance and Support Staff Roles
The guidance and support staff (school social worker, school psychologist, educational consultant, etc.) should take the responsibility of gathering information about students/staff reaction to the death and facilitate individual and/or grief group support sessions.
Attend the a.m. staff meeting.
- As members of the Crisis Management Team, identify and have contact with school staff acquainted with the deceased student and possibly in need of extra support (e.g., a teacher who has had a special relationship with the student, had the student in class, or has a sibling in class.)
- Provide "in-class" assistance when requested by teachers.
Start a master list of "high-risk" students in need of extra support. These include: close friends of the deceased student, relatives, students in the same activities or clubs as the deceased student, neighbors of the deceased student, and students with other stressors. (See Appendix for other indicators of students who may be "high risk".)
Guidance and A.E.A. staff should meet briefly with all identified "high-risk" students and with any students who are referred. Decide what, if any, intervention is appropriate (triage). Options could include:
- Individual grief counseling.
- Grief group. The grief group should automatically be formed the first day, and students should stream in and out during the day. The focus is on memories of the deceased student and grief work. Typically, students will be in grief group for only one or two periods and not all day. For students requiring "excessive" intervention, parents need to be informed and directed to appropriate community resources.
- Referral to community mental health center or other appropriate community resource.
Identify students who are absent during the day who may be "high risk," and inform parents of your concern for them. This may include non-school attendees and those students who may have dropped out or transferred.
For students who request to leave school because of their grief reaction:
- Release students to parents or an adult designated by the parent. Encourage the parent not to leave the child alone during the day.
- Provide parents with guidelines on how to manage grief and a brief listing of community resources. (See Appendix.)
- Let the student know that you expect him/her to return to school the next day.
- Check to see if the students return the next day and briefly check with them to see how they are doing. If a student has not returned, contact their parents to check to see how he/she is doing. Offer your assistance to the parents and/or student.
Attend the after-school staff meeting.
At the end of the first day, the Crisis Management Team should meet to update themselves and review the list of "high-risk" students. Throughout the week, review the status of "high-risk" students with the master list. Determine which students may need to be referred to community mental health services based on their previous history and immediate need.
Discuss the role the guidance/A.E.A. staff will provide in the funeral or memorial service (See Appendix). After the funeral, assist the building staff in moving toward a "normal" atmosphere as soon as possible. (An announcement will be made by the principal regarding continued availability of guidance staff.)
Carefully review with the principal and other Crisis Management Team members the memorial requests for the deceased student (See Appendix).
In a week or two following the crisis, meet as a team and discuss the response activities including those procedures which may need to be modified.