Tennessee Schools Prepare
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Before the Crisis – Leadership for the District


It cannot be emphasized enough how important district wide leadership is in planning for appropriate crisis Postvention. Often district clinical staffs are divided by specialty and have few opportunities to plan how to work together. TSP (Tennessee Schools Prepare) strongly recommends that administrators in charge of student support services, such as school counselors, school psychologists and school social workers, meet together to develop an "on-call” Postvention team that can be called in to local schools for major traumatic events. In addition, the district team can help promote the development of a Postvention crisis team at every local school. Every school crisis is unique; some will require the intervention of a smaller local school Postvention team; others will require a major community-wide response led by the district Postvention team. Districts play a vital role in overseeing the development and training of the local school Postvention teams, and the district Postvention team is an invaluable asset when local school personnel are themselves traumatized.

"Before the Crisis” is also the time for the district leadership to identify and involve community stakeholders in the Postvention plan. Who in your community cares about the safety of schools? Who would benefit from participating in Postvention planning? Who might be helpful in offering post-crisis resources?

It is essential to have a fully operational, on-call, District Postvention Team!

Why have a district wide team? There are times when the crisis or traumatic situation traumatizes the local school Postvention team. In these situations, professionals from outside the immediate school community may be necessary to help restore a sense of stability and community. For example, if the school guidance counselor was particularly close to a deceased student, her own grief might be too great for her to function on the Postvention team. The district team also functions as a resource for materials, training, etc., for local school Postvention team members. The district team communicates important policies and procedures regarding Postvention programs as well as best practice interventions.

Who is on the district team? Membership on the district team will vary depending on the size of the district and the particular organizational structure of that school district. Suggestions include those administrators in charge of psychology, nursing, guidance, and/or social work, and perhaps clinical staff from the above professions who are willing to take on additional responsibilities.

How will the district team function?
The district team will need to organize a way to respond to crises and be available for consultation and preparation 24/7, not just during school hours. One person or a team of people rotating "on-call” responsibilities is essential. Ideally, one phone number is given to all principals and school administrators who need assistance with Postvention. Districts will need to think through carefully how they will identify and communicate the need for Postvention assistance. School systems may be able to "piggyback” with their regular emergency management protocol.

How will the district team coordinate with mental health resources? Each school district should identify licensed community mental health professionals – AHEAD of time – that the district would feel comfortable letting in to one of their schools. Try to ascertain if they have training in critical incident Postvention, and remember, you will need to have the after-hours contact information of mental health volunteers. In Tennessee, there are many community mental health centers willing to participate in school crisis Postvention at no charge. To find your local mental health center, visit www.tamho.org.

How will the Postvention teams coordinate with district and
building-level emergency management teams? It is important to remember that Postvention teams are created to serve schools as part of an overall emergency management continuum. On both a district and local level, Postvention teams work closely with the broader emergency management team to define roles and establish clear decision-making pathways. Emergency management teams pre-plan and practice preparedness, and Postvention teams should be involved on this level so that, in the event of a school crisis, a smooth response and recovery program is set in motion. The primary goal of the Postvention team, at the school or district level, is to foster the emotional recovery of the school community so that learning can continue.

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