Chapter 3: After a student’s death

Administrative support for you

What the educator says
Sue Massaad, elementary school principal, talks about making arrangements so staff can attend a student's funeral.(3:22)Video transcript

“I knew something was very wrong when James (principal) called an emergency meeting at 8am on a Monday but I wasn’t prepared for this. None of us were. Our shock and grief were profound”. - Teacher

Generally, you and the other staff will be notified as quickly as possible, although this may depend on factors such as whether the death occurred on a weekday or weekend, or if any staff are on vacation or sick leave. A briefing should be scheduled prior to the start of the school day to allow time to share your own grief with your colleagues and plan for ways to support students.

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, should also be informed. 

Staff Debrief 

A staff debrief at the end of the day, or the day after learning of the death of a student, is important both in supporting you and your colleagues and in ensuring that all necessary steps have been taken to support students. A debrief provides an opportunity for you to reflect on your experience and to share additional strategies for how you will support your students.       

A key focus of these meetings is for your administrator to provide education, guidance, and support on how to identify vulnerable or at-risk students who might be particularly affected by the death, regardless of the cause. As a teacher, you are in a position where you spend time with students and often have trusting relationships with them. It’s important that you receive assistance in developing the skills necessary to identify and deal with students who are vulnerable. Developing a plan about how to support at-risk or vulnerable students should be a priority.