Training Crisis Teams and School Staff

Although school staff members have a general understanding of child development and possess instructional skills, many are not familiar with children's reactions to trauma and stress and how they relate to a child's development. Also, many educators do not know how to apply their instructional abilities to support children and teach them positive coping skills during a crisis. Most school staff members are not aware of the basic principles of an incident command structure, nor do they know how to maintain an organizational focus during a crisis. Therefore, training conducted according to the School Crisis Response Initiative aims to cover the following areas:

  • Crisis theory as applied to children and adults.

  • Children's reactions to traumatic events and children's grieving and bereavement.6

  • Crisis response organizational model with emphasis on the roles and responsibilities of school crisis response team members and implementation protocols of the crisis response.

  • Principles of memorialization.

  • Classroom interventions.

  • Support room interventions.

  • Mechanisms that enable staff to provide support for one another during a crisis.

Optimally, full school crisis response teams participate together in training that includes group activities that focus attention on working as a team and achieving balance between leadership and full participation by team members. Team members realize that the group process allows for deliberation from multiple vantage points and permits compromise that respects potentially competing priorities, such as ensuring order and security, providing the school community with accurate information, and promoting emotional recovery and optimal coping.

Ongoing Consultation

Ongoing consultations with school crisis response teams promote further teamwork and help team members form functioning district teams and regional resource groups and establish and solidify collaborative relationships with local agencies, including mental health and juvenile justice agencies.

Supporting School Crisis Response Team Members and School Staff

A crisis of any nature often awakens feelings related to a prior crisis that may assume a primary focus for a particular child or staff member. Given an appropriate opportunity during a crisis, these particular children and adults may be inclined to disclose a wide range of personal crises. If this is not anticipated, members of the crisis response team can easily be overwhelmed by the discrepancy between available resources, including skill limitations and available time of team members, and the evolving, seemingly infinite needs of the community.

All members of the crisis teams and school administration need to recognize that this work is difficult and they need to provide adequate support for school staff and other crisis response team members as they work. Crisis response planning for a community must ensure that appropriate supports are available to attend to the mental health needs of members of the crisis response team. An employee assistance plan (EAP) is one way to provide access to discreet, confidential, cost-free, and short-term mental health services. School systems that do not have an EAP may develop a resource list of several practitioners who are experienced in working with traumatized adults and have agreed to be available for offsite staff support. Generally, this approach requires considerable out-of-pocket expense, which may limit access for staff who need this service. Whether a school system uses an EAP or a less structured model based on available clinicians providing intervention with staff on a case-by-case basis, schools should make the names and numbers of support professionals and resources available to school staff at the beginning of a crisis.

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School Crisis Response Initiative
September 2003