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Crisis Response Team

The philosophy of the Westside Community Schools is to prevent crises from happening, and to minimize their effects upon students, staff, their families and the community whenever they do occur.

Though it is the hope of all involved in developing the Westside Community Schools crisis response procedures that they never be needed, we know that crises will happen.
Recognizing a primary moral and legal obligation to protect students, staff, and property in emergencies, The Westside Community Schools will, whenever possible:

   1. maintain the normal school routine,
   2. not dismiss school,
   3. use school personnel to manage the emergency and aftermath.

Whenever a crisis occurs, our goal is to return students and staff to normalcy in as humane and compassionate way as possible so that learning may continue.

The Crisis Response Team (CRT) consists of staff members specifically trained in crisis response and management. All members are volunteers willing to be available at any time.

Individual staff members who have expressed an interest, who are recognized as being good listeners, who are calm in a crisis, who are respected by others and who are capable of maintaining confidentiality are all potential CRT members.

Counselors and psychologists by their background and training are generally expected to be CRT members. Classroom teachers, administrators, and other staff are all potential team members. Elementary, middle school and high school levels will always be represented.

Three members will be designated as District Crisis Response Team Leaders, with one functioning as the overall District CRT Leader. One of these three will be the Case Manager whenever the CRT is activated.

The Crisis Response Team evaluates each crisis situation and develops and implements a specific management plan. The primary functions of the team include:

   1. To determine if a crisis exists.
   2. To determine if the CRT should be activated.
   3. To evaluate the risk factors of student(s) in crisis.
   4. To develop and implement specific intervention plans.
   5. To communicate and coordinate with the school administration and the Director of Communication.
   6. To communicate and coordinate with community agencies if appropriate.
   7. To provide support for students, staff and families.
   8. To help return school to normalcy after a crisis.
   9. To provide follow-up support to students and staff.

No one specific definition applies to all school crises. Any occurrence or activity that disrupts the normal school day and/or causes strong emotional responses from students, staff, parents or community members might be a crisis. Obvious examples include the death of a student or staff member, a suicide or potential suicide, a catastrophic event such as a tornado or fire in a school building, or multiple injuries and/or deaths in an accident.

The CRT may be activated for any crisis. In unclear instances, a Crisis Team notification should be made and the team activated. If not needed, members can quickly return to their normal routine.

Any administrator may initiate activation of the team by following all directives in the "Westside Community Schools Emergency Procedures" (red flip brochure) and by contacting one of the District team leaders who will be the acting case manager:
If the decision is made to activate the team, the Superintendent will be notified.

Composition of Team
One of the District team leaders will be designated as case manager. Generally this will be a team member who works at the grade level most directly affected by the crisis. One of the three teams will be selected (or volunteer) for each incident. All members will be notified that the team has been activated.

This will ensure that no one member carries an inordinate amount of work, and will allow each team member the freedom of not having to be available full-time. In addition there will be times when some members are out-of-town or otherwise scheduled with impossible conflicts (remembering that one fundamental tenet is to maintain the normal school routine).

Case Manager
The case manager will call and lead the first team meeting. This will include selecting the team members and choosing a time and place to meet. The case manager will determine facts have been verified and the Superintendent has been notified.

Building Principal/Administrator
Either the building principal or another administrator will attend and participate in the first meeting in an advisory capacity, recognizing the administrator's importance in reassuring staff and students that the crisis is being managed, while removing the burden of management from this administrator. In other words, it will be recognized that the case manager and the Crisis Team are in charge of the crisis response, freeing up a fully informed principal to maintain and be in charge of the normal school routine.

The Principal will generally preside at a scheduled faculty meeting(s) regarding the crisis. The faculty meeting will typically include:

1. An explanation of all facts
2. An opportunity for questions
3. An introduction of Crisis Team members and their specific roles/responsibilities
4. An explanation of the plan to communicate with the media and the encouragement that staff and students not visit with the media
5. A brief explanation of grief and how it might affect each of us and each student
6. An encouragement to support each other

Team Recorder/Communicator
The case manager will assign one team member as the recorder/communicator. This individual will be in charge of collecting and disseminating new/changing information, and in communicating with the District Director of Communications. This individual will also work closely with the school secretar(ies).

News Media Liaison
One individual at the building level will be designated the media liaison. In most instances this will be the building principal who will work directly with the District Director of Communications. The Director of Communications will serve as the official District spokesperson, but may designate others to speak to the media.  This individual will handle all communications between the District and the media and will be responsible for news releases and/or news conferences.

Other Team Members
The following tasks will be cooperatively assigned to team members based upon each member's interest, closeness to the situation, level of comfort, and the type of crisis:

All Situations:
1. Notification of teachers of faculty meeting(s) - when possible there will be meetings both before and after school the first day after a crisis. This individual will work with the principal and team leader to facilitate smooth meetings with all staff in attendance. This individual will work closely with the school secretary in communicating with staff including mobilizing a telephone tree when appropriate.

2. Staffing of grief room - A schedule will be developed that has two team members in the room at all times. Names of all students will be recorded and students at high risk will be noted and monitored. Whenever possible 1 room should be used for the entire time period, and this room should be as private as possible.

Students may be referred to the grief room by any staff member or they may "self-refer". Before being admitted to the grief room, each student will be assessed by a CRT member or, whenever possible, the student's counselor. This individual will determine if the grieving student:

1. legitimately belongs in the grief room,
2. needs other individual counseling,
3. is capable of and should return to class
4. needs to be dismissed from school to a parent.

When the decision is made by the CRT assessor or counselor, that individual will call the student's parent/guardian and explain the situation.

This process will be followed to try to assure that students involved in the grieving room legitimately need to be there. The assessor will consider both the individual student's relationship to the individual(s) for whom the CRT has been activated and other events in the student's life that the current crisis may have elicited an emotional response.

3. Lists of high risk students - All team members will give this member the names of all students who appear to themselves be at risk due to the crisis. In the case of death or serious injury/illness, close friends, including those out of school or who attend other schools, will also be identified and parents or school officials alerted whenever appropriate. This team member will be responsible for assuring these students are monitored over the next few weeks.

4. Letter to parents - In many instances it is important that a letter that describes what has happened, and the schools ongoing response, be sent to all parents. This reassures the community that the school is doing all possible to help all involved and also helps with rumor control. One team member will work directly with the building principal to help draft a letter that will be signed by the school principal and delivered as expeditiously as possible.

Whenever a situation involves a student death the student's parent(s)/guardian(s) permission and input will be obtained before this letter is sent. In some instances the parent(s)/guardian(s) may request that this letter not be sent. This request will always be honored.

5. Principal's "closure statement" - One team member will assist the principal in writing and disseminating a statement to staff a few days after the crisis. A thanks for working together, a request to continue supporting each other, a reminder that grief issues can recur and the hope that all relationships have been strengthened are items to be included.

Death Situations:
1. Notification of significant others - including family, friends and staff (including non-certified). Every effort should be made to identify those who are close to the student so they can be notified in person (music teacher, PE teacher, homeroom teacher, coach, etc.).

2. Preparation of statement for staff/student notification - Generally this will be a brief statement containing known facts regarding what happened, funeral arrangements, the school's concern and sympathy, and the availability of counselors, the crisis team, and the grief room.

3. Meeting with class(es) of student who has died or who is seriously injured or ill - Two team members will follow a secondary student's schedule or spend time in the classroom of an elementary student. Generally one will sit in the missing student's place. Age appropriate information will be presented and discussed, and any high risk students will be noted.

4. Dealing with dead student's locker, desk and possessions - One team member will arrange for gathering the student's possessions, preferably when few or no other students are around, and arrange for their return to the family as appropriate. On the elementary level, the teacher, counselor, and classmates will cooperatively review and make decisions on possessions.

5. Attendance at funeral and visitation - Several team members will attend these activities both to give support to the family, staff, and students and also to observe for high risk students.

6. Death of a staff member - Whenever possible we will provide a familiar building level staff member as a substitute and provide an unassigned substitute teacher to move among classes as needed.

When the team leader(s) and administrator(s) have cooperatively determined that CRT intervention is needed, the case manager will set a meeting time and place and a telephone tree will be activated. All team members have an annually updated laminated card listing team members home and work phone numbers.
At the initial team meeting following a reported crisis (other than a suicide threat/attempt):

1. Verify that all Westside Community Schools Emergency Procedures (red flip brochure) are being followed.
2. Verify facts.
as appropriate for each specific crisis:

3. Arrange for notification of significant others (family and staff) of known facts and of the CRT as a helping source.
4. Verify notification of superintendent, director of communications and other administrators.
5. Determine method for notification of staff and students.
6. Arrange for faculty meeting(s).
7. Prepare statement(s) to staff and students.
8. Determine names of high risk students/staff.
9. Determine procedures for emotionally upset students/staff including grief room.
10. Agree upon specific tasks/roles for each team member
11. Agree on procedures for students wishing to leave school (In most cases every effort should be made to keep students in school. In no case should student(s) be dismissed without parent permission).
12. Agree upon method of communication during crisis period and time and place for next meeting.
13. Arrange for substitute teachers.
14. E-mail/telephone notification ASAP to non-activated members of the CRT.

Memorials/Dedications/Other Recognitions:

   1. An administrative team will review all requests for any type of memorial/dedication/recognition for a deceased person. An individual building administrator should not be in the position of accepting/denying any request. One central office administrator and one Crisis Team leader should be part of this team.
   2. Concern should always be directed toward glamorizing; anything that in any way glamorizes a  suicide, a violent/crime related death, a drug/alcohol death, a death due to illegal activities, etc. should be disallowed.
   3. Students frequently have a need, though, to "do something" and their concerns should be carefully acknowledged.

Some options to school memorials and dedications are: gardens, statues, etc., done at the deceased's house; private memorials done at a place of worship or at a close friend's house; in some instances the planting of a tree on school property but without an identifying plaque and without a school ceremony is acceptable, particularly when it will help bring closure to a small group of close friends.
Closing School:

   1. Requests to dismiss school for a funeral or related activity or to close school or cancel scheduled events generally should be denied. Whenever possible, the normal school routine should be maintained.

Excused Absences for Distraught Students:

   1. With parent permission, students who are too emotionally upset to be in the school building should be excused from school with no penalties. No student should leave school without parental permission, and in many cases the student(s) should be encouraged to remain at school but in a supportive atmosphere.
   2. Student gatherings for grieving during the school day in student homes (even with parent(s) present) should be discouraged.

Excused Absences for Funeral/Related Activities:

   1. Families desiring student/staff attendance at these activities should be encouraged whenever possible to schedule them outside of the normal school day.
   2. Students should be excused with parent permission for these events when they are during the school day.
   3. Every effort should be made to allow staff to attend these events when during the school day.
   4. Parents, especially of elementary and middle school students, should be encouraged to attend these events with their son/ daughter.

Suicide General Guidelines:

   1. Nothing should be done to romanticize or glamorize suicide; students need to think of a dead body as it is as opposed to the beautiful "Romeo and Juliet" stereotype.
   2. Euphemisms should be avoided; even the words killed himself/herself are better than committed suicide.
   3. No one can be a helping person until their own grief, guilt, uncertainty is resolved. Faculty must support each other.
   4. One suicide puts other students at-risk. Students need to be reassured, though, that suicide is not contagious or something "that sneaks up and happens without thought".

When a suicide threat/attempt is reported during the school day:
All suicide threats/attempts must be taken seriously. CRT members must be available and willing to leave their agenda for the day and immediately deal with a possible suicide. All staff members should be alert to the possibility of student suicide, and they should immediately seek a CRT member, a school psychologist, counselor or administrator to discuss a perceived threat. These steps should be followed:

   1. At least two individuals will discuss the threat: if possible, a CRT member and an administrator.
   2. Depending upon the seriousness of the threat, the mutual decision will be to either 1) monitor the student carefully, or 2) activate the CRT.
   3. A parent will be notified and this notification documented.

Procedures When the Decision is to Monitor the Student:

   1. The student will be kept under observation during the time of the immediate threat.
   2. School resources and procedures (including the administration of an appropriate assessment of risk instrument) will be explained to the parent. Arrangements for explanation of the assessment of risk instrument and for the parent picking the student up from school will be made.
   3. Pertinent information will not be kept confidential. The only issue will be what is necessary to get immediate help to the student
   4. An assessment of risk will be made by a member of the Crisis Team. Either the Westside Assessment or the "Suicide Risk Assessment Scale and Referral Record" or a structured interview may be used. The individual doing the assessment will collaborate with at least one other Team member to determine the student's level of risk.
   5. One individual will be assigned to monitor the student over the near future. This will include communication with parent(s) and referral to the Student Assistance Team.
   6. Team members will carefully document each of the above steps.

Procedures When the Decision is Made to Activate the CRT:

   1. The student will be supervised at all times.
   2. Team members will meet and/or conference call immediately.
   3. School resources and procedures (including the administration of an appropriate assessment of risk instrument) will be explained to the parent. Arrangements for explanation of the assessment of risk instrument and for picking the student up from school will be made. If a parent is unwilling to pick the student up (or unavailable), the team will choose a safe option for the student. This may include notifying the police (school liaison officer when available) and/or Child Protective Services.
   4. Pertinent information will not be kept confidential. The only issue will be what is necessary to get immediate help to the student.
   5. Unless the student is too distraught, either the Westside Assessment, or the "Suicide Risk Assessment Scale" will be administered by a Crisis Team member. The individual doing the assessment will collaborate with at least one other team member to determine the student's level of risk.
   6. After discussion of the student's risk level and available resources with the parent(s), the Crisis Team member will ask the parent(s) to schedule an appropriate appointment in the presence of a CRT member. If necessary, the student might be taken directly to a hospital emergency room.
   7. Every effort will be made to assure the parent(s)/guardian sign a release of information form with all counselors, agencies, hospitals and/or mental health providers allowing communication with the school. Parent(s)/guardian will be asked to insist that all above providers working with their child communicate with a designated person at the school before the student returns to school.
   8. If the student begins outside counseling, every effort will be made to include the team as part of the student's treatment plan. Parent(s) will be strongly urged to sign necessary release of information forms and cooperate in this effort.
   9. The Crisis Team member will give the parent her/his home phone number and the parent will be asked to contact the team member yet that day to assure the student is not in imminent danger. If a call is not received by the team member, the team member will call the family that evening.
  10. If the student is to return to school the next day, a team member will be assigned to see the student, monitor the student's schedule for the day and communicate with teacher(s) as appropriate.
  11. A long term monitoring of the student by a team member (typically the student's assigned counselor) will be arranged.
  12. Team members will carefully document each of the above steps.

Additional steps to be taken if a staff member is informed of a suicide threat or attempt outside of school hours:

BY TELEPHONE FROM THE STUDENT:

   1. The staff member should attempt to keep the student on the phone by encouraging the student to talk, while simultaneously gathering as much information as possible.
   2. While student is on the phone the staff member should enlist help (if possible) from someone else (written notes.)
   3. Have other person try to contact parent(s).
   4. Have other person contact a Crisis Team leader, the building principal or other administrator.
   5. Have other person contact police (911) if the situation is extremely critical examples: student has a weapon, student is taking pills
   6. If not possible to keep student on the phone, and/or no one else is available to assist, make contact with parent or other responsible adult who can assure you they are monitoring the student, or else call police (911), then follow step 4 above.

IN PERSON (SUCH AS AFTER A NIGHT SCHOOL ACTIVITY):

   1. The staff member must remain with the student until a parent or other responsible adult picks student up.
   2. The staff member must notify an administrator and a CRT member as soon as possible.

WHEN REPORTED BY ANOTHER INDIVIDUAL:

   1. The staff member must gather as much information as possible.
   2. The staff member must contact a CRT member.
   3. Parent must be notified, then decision to monitor or activate CRT made and above procedures followed.



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