Go to top of page

How to use these guidelines

These guidelines are a checklist of the immediate and longer term steps you, as site leader, should take when responding to a traumatic death. 

The guidelines should be read, understood and used in the context of each sector’s relevant policies and procedures. This includes:

  • critical incident reporting
  • mandatory reporting
  • information sharing
  • protective practices
  • work health and safety.

Who can use these guidelines

As a site leader you are responsible for all actions. Anyone at your school can read these guidelines. If we say ‘you’ or ‘your’, we mean the school’s site leader. Any actions must be delegated and guided by the site leader.

Any school can use the guidelines. This includes high school, primary school and preschool.

Your role as site leader

You are responsible for how your school responds to a student’s traumatic death. Although these guidelines are open for anyone to use, it’s your role to manage the response. You will work with:

Emergency response team

Your school’s emergency response team must review these guidelines as soon as they hear about a student’s death.

Some schools might have different names for the team that responds to a student’s death. It might be:

  • an emergency response team
  • a critical incident team
  • the leadership team.

Timeline for response

You must read all of these guidelines and in order.

If you read this a few days after a student’s death, you need to check the whole timeline. Do not use only one part. For example, if you find out after the school holidays, check everything from immediate to later.

How to refer to a student’s death

Do not use the term ‘suicide’

You should not refer to a student’s death as a suicide. Use the phrase ‘traumatic death’. This includes when you communicate with your school and the community.

Although the cause of death might seem obvious, in a reportable case only the Coroner can determine how someone died. This happens after the Coroner completes their investigation.