Administrative Procedure 182: Tragic Events Response

Related References

A tragic event is any situation faced by individuals which causes them to experience unusually strong emotional reactions and which has the potential to interfere with their ability to function at the time of the incident or later. When tragic events occur which affect the students and staff of a school, the task of coping with such tragedies is shared by the school and related professionals.

Children and youth vary in ability and experience in understanding tragic and critical events and may rely upon adults to assist them. Young children are subject to fears and inaccurate understandings about death; these thoughts and feelings are related to development. Without intervention, survivors may feel isolated. The emotional readjustment of survivors is directly related to how well they are able to move through the grieving process. Grief is a journey, not a destination.
Understanding a person’s own feelings about death, the process of grieving and the age-appropriate reactions of students to death and dying requires knowledge, skills and sensitivity to the feelings and behaviour of others. Mental Health professionals have training and experience in responding to emergencies and highly stressful events; as such AMDSB MHWB Counselors have informed and will lead our Tragic Event Response Support Team (TERST) response.

Implicit in the guideline is the assumption that each person grieves in an individual way and latitude and support must be provided. Such support, as is necessary, should be provided while maintaining minimal disruption to the educational process.
Foundational to this plan, is a culturally responsive respect for the wishes of the immediate family in applying these guidelines. This may include the involvement of diverse community leaders or knowledge keepers. However, such wishes will not preclude the need of the school to deal as effectively as possible with student/staff grief.

1. Guidelines for Responding to Tragic Events
The Director of Education has developed this administrative procedure to provide guidelines for school personnel when responding to situations of need and stress within the school community related to crisis and tragic events.

2. School Procedures
2.1 The TERST Resource Guide outlines procedures that should be followed and resources that may be utilized when a tragic event occurs.
2.2 Principals shall develop a school-based Tragic Event Response Support Team (School TERST). Members may include school staff members, Regulated Health Professionals, and police officers. Membership will be reviewed annually. Each September, the Superintendent of Student Support Services will distribute a form requiring schools to identify the members of their school based TERST and share it with the administrative assistant to the Superintendent of Student Support Services.
2.3 In the case of a tragic event, Principals should consult with their school Superintendent to determine if the District TERST will be engaged. At this time, the school Superintendent and the Superintendent of Student Support Services will engage the Mental Health Lead to initiate District TERST support.
2.4 When a tragic event occurs, the Superintendent of Student Support Services, or designate, shall notify the Director's office, the Communications Manager, Senior Staff Trustees, and Ministry of Education as directed. In some cases, the Communications Manager will send an email to all Principals and union leads that there has been an incident at the school.

Appendix A - AMDSB Tragic Events Response Support Team (TERST) Resource Guide
Appendix B - School Based Tragic Event Response Support Team
Note: AMDSB Staff to contact Student Support Services for TERST Leads Contact List
Revised September 2021