5141.61 - Dealing with The Effect Of A Death
Dealing With The Effect Of A Death
A death in the school community has an impact on everyone. Since death is a part of life, educators are in a unique position to help students learn to cope with death in a healthy way.
The initial reaction to a death is often shock, particularly when the death is sudden or violent. Current literature and professional thinking emphasize 1) the need for an established plan and 2) a team approach for dealing with a school related death. These practices relieve any one person from having to take a total responsibility for handling a traumatic situation. Having a plan and a crisis team in place allows administrators and school staff to react more quickly and to deal more effectively with the impact of a death.
The primary goals of a successful plan are to:
• facilitate communication
• encourage the healthy expression of feelings
• provide outreach and support to those in special need
• identify students at risk
• help all students and staff deal with the reality of death in a positive way
The procedure outlined in this guide should serve as a base from which to work as each school develops an action plan that meets its specific needs. A plan should be flexible enough so that it can take into account the differences in each situation. Every school should have a crisis team in place which will then be activated whenever a crisis occurs.
Although this guide was developed to deal with a school related death, it can be adapted or applied to other traumas.
School Based Crisis Team
The school based Crisis Teams are flexible in structure. The Principal will chair each school based team, although another staff member may serve as the Chairman at the request of the Principal. The school based teams will be likely to have at least one counselor and the school nurse. Certified as well as non-certified staff, parents, students, and community members may join the teams where appropriate. There is no limit as to the number of members on the school based Crisis Team.
Although the Crisis Team and School Principal often play the most direct part in dealing with a school death, all other staff members have their roles, too. These include serving as a sounding board for student feelings and information, receiving and communicating helpful knowledge about student welfare, and acting as a role model for students. Staff members should stay alert over a period of time to the effect of a death, serious injury, or suicide attempt on students with whom they come in contact. The on-going role of the total staff is to help the school as a whole cope with the crisis situation.
Legal References: Connecticut General Statues
10-221(e) Boards of education to prescribe rules.
Policy adopted: July 9, 2019
NEWTOWN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, Newtown, Connecticut
Response Timeline for Student Death
Immediately upon notification of death:
• Talk to family about the information that they would like to be shared
• Notify the Superintendent
• Notify other principals in the district (encourage them to get their buildings’ support staff ready)
• Notify the school’s PPS support staff
• Notify the school’s staff/faculty
Respect the family's wishes first
Initial message to family
Visit to the home from administrators and
|Next School Day After
Desk and personal belongings
Prepare for the return of student's siblings
Prepare a support plan for Student's classroom and teacher
Prepare a support plan for student's siblings' classrooms and teachers
|Funeral/Wake||Get details of wake and funeral from family
Coverage for staff
|Community||Inform other schools in the district; other staff and families as a appropriate
Prepare for media inquiries
Email to parents
Outside activities the student was involved with (how will their death impact the great community)?
|Bus||Notify the bus company of student's death|
Extra support staff
Create plan for days after death
Student support plan
Create efficient means of communication
Create a script for the teacher to use with the students to explain what happened
Create a list of parents/students that need to be told individually before general community email is sent
Create a plan (in collaboration with parents) on what to
do with students belongings
|Memorialization||Create a plan for how to remember the student||
Generate a list of staff who will be most affected by the loss
Initial message to staff
Student's teacher and teachers of siblings
Grief and Children
Children between the ages of 5-9 begin to understand that death is permanent, although they do not always believe it is something that can happen to them. Children in this age group with a medical condition may be more likely to internalize that death can happen to them.
Children between the ages 9-11 begin to understand that life is fragile and death can happen to them. Kids this age may be more interested in the details of things like cause of death, and the biological aspects of the causes of death.
School age children may show the following behaviors when learning about death:
• Crying or sobbing
• Abdominal pain
• Denial of death
• Hostile reaction toward deceased person
Adults can be help by:
• Providing age appropriate information when questions are asked
• Physically and verbally comforting students as appropriate – acknowledge their pain
• Admitting that adults do not always know why certain things happen
• Linking children and adolescents to counseling services as needed
Older adolescents/teens may have a much greater understanding of death than younger children. Therefore, they may exhibit visible signs of stress and depression when they are faced with loss, whether that is the loss of a family member, close friends, or other peer. Behaviors following loss may be characterized by:
• Social isolation
• Discomfort talking about the loss with another adult or outside counselor
• Reliance on the internet of social media to “find answers” or seek comfort
• Behavioral changes (acting out), substance abuse, or eating disorders
• Strong emotions, such as sadness, answer, worry, or guilt
• Physical reactions, such as having stomach aches or not sleeping
Regulation approved: July 9, 2019
NEWTOWN PUBLIC SCHOOLS, Newtown, Connecticut
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