Student/ Member of Staff Dies – School Response
Crisis can create a crisis response but a clear framework which is purposeful and co-ordinated is required by schools in the aftermath of the sudden death of a student or member of staff.
These structures must be in line with clearly formatted procedures if we are to respond coherently and flexibly to a death. This has the effect of containing the aftermath of the tragedy for the student or member of staff.
The death of a student or member of staff is a serious matter for the whole school community, especially the student’s/member of staff’s close friends or peers in the school. Thus it is important that the school reacts to such an event in a way that recognises the loss of one of its members and deals sensitively with the aftermath and also supports those most seriously affected by the loss.
On receipt of notification of a student’s/ member of staff’s death, the Principal or Chaplain should be the first point of contact and he/she will notify the following people:
Principal => Deputy Principals => Pastoral Care Team => Year Heads => Tutors => Other Relevant Members of Staff
- Establish the facts:
- What are the circumstances of the death?
- Who has died?
- How did he/ she die?
- Convene a meeting of key people: Counsellor, Chaplain, Home School Liaison Co-ordinator, Year Head and any other relevant member(s) of the staff.
- Contact appropriate outside agencies for support should the need arise, e.g. Counselling Service, etc.
- Contact support staff.
- Make immediate contact with bereaved family.
- Consult with the family regarding appropriate support from the school, e.g. funeral service
- Student/staff briefing.
- Who? – Staff, Class, Year Group
- By whom? Principal, Chaplain, Year Head
- What Information? Facts
- Be sensitive to the bereaved family’s wish for privacy.
D – TRIAGE => Closest Friend(s) – Staff/Class – Year Group
- Anticipate student/staff questions and responses.
- Ensure that a quiet place can be made available for students/ staff.
- Media Briefing –
- Designate a spokesperson.
- Prepare brief statements.
- Protect the family’s privacy.
- (Principal/ Pastoral Care Team).
Medium Term Tasks
- Preparation of students/staff attending funeral.
- Involvement of students/staff in liturgy, if agreed by bereaved family.
- Facilitation of students’/staff’s responses, e.g. sympathy cards, flowers, book of condolences, etc.
- Explanation of funeral ritual.
- Monitoring of distressed students/staff during funeral.
- Ensuring counselling service is available to identified students and staff.
- What other services are required/available, e.g. Health Board, Accredited Counsellors from I.A.C.P. and I.H.I.P.
- Ritual within the school.
- Care of deceased person’s possessions. What are the parents’ wishes?
- Facilitate the return to school of siblings, close friends, etc.
- Close monitoring of friends/siblings if the deceased.
- Update and amend school records.
Long Term Tasks
- Keep in touch with the parents of the deceased.
- Be aware of occasions such as Anniversaries, Birthdays, Christmas, etc.
- Plan a school memorial service.
- Review overall school response. Help the students/staff to acknowledge bereavement.
- Review the support structures available, e.g. Bereavement Support Group, etc.
- Be aware of the impact on the Primary Carers. Provide appropriate support.
Bereavement Services and Organisations offering Support
I.A.C.P. Counselling Service – 01-2300061
I.H.I.P. Counselling Service – 01-2841665
Health Board: Catherine Brogan – 01-6707987
Bereavement Counselling – 01-8391766
Compassionate Friends (Dublin) – 01-8322197
The Samaritans – 0850-609090
SÓLÁS (bereavement counselling for children) – 01-4540355