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.
Each school has a school-based crisis intervention team comprised of the assigned school psychologist, school social worker, school counselor(s), 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 each month throughout the year. If a crisis affects a large segment of the school requiring an expanded response, the on-call central-based crisis team will be deployed to the affected schools to provide additional crisis support.
Based on the PREPaRE curriculm developed by the National Association of School Psychologists, 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 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.
In an emergency, call 911 and ask for a Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) deputy or officer.
There also are resources available 24 hours, 7 days a week for youth experiencing depression, suicidal thoughts or other behavioral crises. Through Loudoun County Mental Health, Substance Abuse, and Developmental Services, help is available at 703-777-0320 for youth experiencing an immediate and severe emotional crisis. The Crisis Intervention Team Assessment Center, located at 102 Heritage Way, Leesburg, Virginia, is open from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily, and mental health professionals are available for anyone in crisis. Non-emergency appointments at a Loudoun County Mental Health Center can be made at 703-771-5155.