Teachers play a vital role in helping students deal with their feelings regarding the death of a fellow student, a parent, or any significant person in the student's life. Teachers should review information in the Appendix of this manual as soon as they are notified of a death. It is important for teachers to determine if they can teach their class this particular day or will need help to "cover" their class(es) so they have individual time to console distraught students, visit parents with the building principal, etc. Sometimes teachers are also extremely distraught over the death. In these instances, the teacher should request assistance to cover their classes. It is okay for teachers to grieve and seek help with their assigned duties.
Attend all-staff mandatory meetings and review any available written information. (See Appendix.)
Allow the expressions of grief. Acknowledge and encourage students to express their feelings of loss, anger, sadness, etc.
Note: People have different reactions to grief. One way for the teacher to encourage the students' expression of grief is to acknowledge your own feelings immediately following the announcement of the student's death. If you are uncomfortable discussing grief or handling this situation in your classroom today, please ask for assistance from the Crisis Management Team Leader.
Death By Natural Causes, Accident, etc.
If the death was a sudden one following an accident or one following a long-term illness, it may be important to have the students discuss their fears and to talk a bit about funerals. This may be a time when students ask questions. Questions need to be answered honestly but tactfully and simply. The major focus should be on assisting students in expressing their feelings and reactions. (Students will respond differently based upon their past experience with death, coping skills, and age. Please see Appendix.)
Death By Suicide
If death was by suicide, emphasize this tragedy as an error in judgment. Suicide is a permanent solution to temporary problems. Encourage students to talk about ways to cope with stress, loss, and personal problems.
Channel names and/or students themselves to the guidance office if they seem high risk now or as the week progresses. (See Appendix) (At the elementary level, much of the crisis intervention will take place in the student's classroom because that is the location students feel most secure.)
Attend a brief after-school meeting to review the day's events/ The principal and Crisis Management Team members will be available to discuss concerns you may have regarding any of your students. It should be noted that teachers need to be taken care of, too. Take breaks and have time away from students during the day. Be sure to eat meals and watch personal nutrition and other health habits. After the students have left the building, give yourself an opportunity to process what has happened during the day.
Attend the mandatory all-staff after-school meeting.