A school crisis is an event that is perceived as extremely negative, uncontrollable, and sudden and unpredictable (Brock, et al., 2016). Such events may cause great pain or physical and/or emotional harm or have the perception of causing both. Crises can impact a small number of students, but also have the potential to impact the whole school and school community. Further, they can significantly disrupt the learning environment of students. Such events are outside the norm of the typical school day and may include: severe illness and/or injury; violent and/or unexpected death; threatened death and/or injury; acts of war and/or terrorism; natural disasters; or man-made/industrial disasters.
Using the National Association of School Psychologists’ PREPaRE model of crisis preparedness and intervention, teams of school mental health professionals are called upon to address critical incidents within our schools. This provides an organized, systematic approach to mental health response and recovery of students and staff. When a crisis occurs, teams of school mental health professionals will assess the impact or trauma potential of a crisis and then deliver appropriate interventions in response to the demonstrated needs of students and staff. The benefits of school crisis intervention include: assisting students and staff return to adaptive coping and problem solving; educating students, staff and parents about normal crisis reactions and when to seek help; and helping students to return to a safe and supportive environment that is conducive to learning.
Each school has a school based crisis intervention team that is typically made up of the assign school psychologist, school social worker, school counselor, and the building administrator. Additionally, there are six central-based crisis teams made up of school psychologists and school social workers that are on call throughout the year. If a crisis affects a large segment of the school to require an expanded response, the on-call central based crisis team will be sent to provide additional support.