Chapter J - Emergency Response

Part 5.0 Crisis Intervention Plan

Section 5.1 Public Information Officer Duties

Policy Statement:


When a death occurs, the Public Information Officer (PIO) or her designee will activate the school's crisis team and plan to address the loss.  She will coordinate efforts with other schools that may also be impacted.

  1. Verify the Information.  First, it is extremely important to verify the information (e.g., from family members or local authorities).  Many police agencies will allow school district authorities to purchase copies of police reports for reference.
  2. Determine what information the family would like to have disclosed (or what information has already been released publicly from a reliable source).  It is best policy to contact secondary families members such as aunts, uncles, grand parents first to gather accurate information without upsetting immediate family when ever possible.  This is why accurate contact information, gathered by our attendance office personnel is extremely important.
  3.  Activate the crisis intervention team and develop a response plan.
  4. Notify teachers and staff.  If the initial notification has occurred outside of school hours, this may require initiating the phone tree to notify the school staff and to invite them to meet before school to explain the brief them about the death and the crisis response plan.  This gives teachers an opportunity to ask any questions they wish and to prepare themselves before they see their students in class.  If notification occurs during school hours, this may require the distribution of a written statement or a staff meeting. (see Appendix A:  Sample Staff Notification Template).
  5. Provide clear instruction to teachers and staff about communication with students, parents, or others about the event (see Appendix B: Sample Student Communication Script).  If a teacher does not feel able to talk to his/her students about the death, a member of the crisis team should be available to step in or assist with the notification.  If a teacher has died, consider having a teacher from the same or a lower grade who is familiar with the deceased teacher's students, or a teacher from the school crisis team who is more comfortable, notify that class. Consider having this teacher remain with the class over the next few days and have a substitute cover for the less directly impacted class.
  6. Notify students.  Students should be notified face-to-face with familiar staff.  At a time like this, even professional educators often struggle with what to say.   With a prepared statement, teachers can give the same information to all students simultaneously (see Appendix B: Sample Student Communication Script).   This should be done in small, naturally occurring groups such as first period classes; every effort should be made to ensure that all students are present at the time this information is shared.   Include information about the availability of school counselors, support services, local clergy, and how students may access those services.
    Caution: do not use of public address systems or large assemblies to make such announcements.  In the case of suicides it is especially important because large assemblies can inadvertently serve to glamorize or sensationalize the victim and event and can lead to copycat occurrences.
  7. Notify parents.  Draft a letter and/or email for parents to notify them about the death and what services are being offered to students and families.   Assure parents that crisis teams have been mobilized and support services are available (see Appendix C: Sample Parent Notification Template).
  8. Respond as necessary to law enforcement or media agencies regarding the event (See Appendix E: Communication and Outreach).