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Do not talk about the details of the student’s death.
The script makes sure students receive consistent and accurate information. It helps you manage any rumours or misinformation that come up.
Students affected by the news must not leave the school unaccompanied.
Offer to call and ask their parents or carers to collect them. If they need to stay at the school, remind them about the support room.
The preferred way to inform students is:
- home or pastoral care groups
- class groups
- year level groups.
Make sure staff sharing this news are comfortable doing so.
Whole school assemblies are not recommended.
Student reactions are more difficult to manage in large groups. It’s harder to support individuals.
It can also be hard to notice when a student leaves a large group.
Speak to close friends individually, or in small groups. If possible a student wellbeing leader or school counsellor should do this. How this happens depends on the relationships in the group.
Don’t assume that the student’s closest friends are in the same year level.
Do not assume biological siblings are the student’s only siblings.
Students in the same class as a sibling at the school
This group will have a classmate grieving the loss of a sibling. They will need more help to understand how to support their classmate. It might be appropriate to have a counsellor or mental health professional speak to this group as well as the class teacher.
Students in the same year level
Sharing with this group is a way to recognise their close association with the student. It helps because these students probably want to know what’s happening. They might also have different support needs than the rest of the school.
Let all the Aboriginal students know in their own group, separate from the main group.
Students with a culturally or linguistically diverse background
Students with this background might need more support.
Community liaison officers (CLOs) can help you understand what a traumatic death means in different cultures.
CLOs are available for schools in:
- Department for Education (login required)
- Catholic Education SA.
Children in care
Think about how you can offer extra support for children in care (under guardianship).
The issue of naming the student will vary. You should be sensitive to the family’s wishes. You should also think about any specific cultural needs.
Be sure to check with the family if it is appropriate to use:
- the deceased student’s name
- an alternative, or
- no name.
This also applies to images of the deceased.
There are specific needs if the student is Aboriginal.
Students will eventually find out the deceased student’s name. At first, it might be more appropriate to only use the student’s name with:
- students in the same year level
- students in the class of a sibling.
Some of your students might be learning at home.
Contact SWISS or headspace Schools about this. They can give you advice specific to your school.