Chapter 4: Planning for when a student is dying

Informing and debriefing staff

What the educator says
Sue Massaad, elementary school principal, talks about informing and supporitng staff following a death.(3:22)Video transcript

“It happened on a Monday night and I did not learn of the death until mid-morning on Tuesday. I had to act quickly to inform the staff and we did not have much time to grasp it or even to prepare ourselves to tell the students”. – Vice Principal

Once you’ve confirmed the death with the family, all staff should be informed as soon as possible. Below are several best practices for doing this. 

Click on each phrase for more information about it.    

Include all staff and working personnelInformation-sharing should include administrators, support staff, custodial staff, coaches, lunch monitors, cooks, etc. Remember to include personnel such as school bus drivers, street crossing guards, and playground supervisors, who are often the first point of contact in a student’s day.
Ensure automated call desistsAsk your administrative team to ensure that the family does not receive automated school absence reminder calls for the student who died.
Immediately schedule a staff briefingIdeally, a staff briefing should be scheduled before the start of the next school day. If you learn of a death on a weekend or holiday, consider contacting staff by email or telephone to advise them of the death and details of the staff meeting. Remember to also inform any staff who are on vacation or leave.
Have a staff meetingA staff meeting allows time for staff to share their own grief with their colleagues and to plan for ways to support their students. Identify any of your staff members who are closely impacted by the death and check in with them over the coming weeks and months to see whether they need additional support.
Plan how you will support at-risk or vulnerable students

Developing a plan about how to support at-risk or vulnerable students should be a priority. A key focus of the meeting is to provide staff with information, guidance, and support about how to identify and support vulnerable or at-risk students who, for whatever reason, might be particularly affected by the death. Because teachers are in a position where they spend time with students and often have trusting relationships, it’s important to assist them in developing these skills.

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See also:For resources about how to identify and support at-risk students, see Module 3 – Support for Student Deaths, Chapter 3– After a student’s death and Chapter 4– After a student’s death by suicide.