The Sooke School District’s critical incident response team provides support to students and staff throughout the district in the case of a death or traumatic event that will impact the school community. (Kendra Wong /News Gazette staff)

Team provides support to students, staff after death or traumatic event

Helping students, staff in the Sooke School District cope with tragedy

When someone in the school community passes away suddenly, it can have a devastating effect on students, faculty and staff.

Whether it’s the death of a student, a parent of a student or a faculty member, those who knew them will experience a wide range of emotions as they try to cope with the loss. That’s when the Sooke School District’s critical incident response team (CIRT) steps in to help.

The 14-member team consists largely of counsellors throughout the district who are deployed to schools when a person in the school community dies, such as the most recent incident in which a Grade 10 Belmont Secondary student died of a suspected drug overdose, or another traumatic event takes place that could effect the school.

RELATED: Grade 10 Belmont student dies from suspected overdose

“When we lose a member of the school community there is an impact on the school in some ways, but if we don’t pay attention to the experience of it, it can build up and come out in ways that are less healthy,” said Christine McGregor, district principal of student support services, who alongside Janine Brooks, district vice principal of student support services, are the CIRT co-ordinators.

“Our role is helping people to process the experience so that they can come back to whatever their role is at the school – whether it’s as a student or a staff member and feel like they can move on in a healthy way … Processing it in the place where the loss occurred is helpful for people.”

McGregor’s job begins when she receives an email or a phone call from the school’s principal about an incident. From there, she puts the call out to volunteers of the team, who often drop what they’re doing to provide support. The team takes a collaborative approach, working with the principal, vice principal, school counsellors and others to identify who will be impacted.

Once at the school, the team sets up a safe room such as in a library where people who are looking for support can go to speak to a counsellor or write a card. McGregor often sees a range of emotions from those seeking support.

“It can be surprise, guilt, anger and it’s all okay,” she said, adding incidents may remind students of an experience they had in the past. “I could be something that they [students] bring up. They’ll say ‘I don’t know if this is okay, but we had to put our dog down on the weekend, I’m feeling sad from that and now I’m hearing this [news]’ or it might be someone in their family is ill and they heard something in the announcement and they start to wonder about their own family member.”

RELATED: Belmont student who died of suspected overdose remembered as reliable and funny

The team, which is deployed roughly two to eight times a year, will assist in other ways as well. Members will help the principal draft a message about the incident to staff, help with the script that’s read aloud to students during school or help with the letter that is distributed to parents. They will also help staff wash dishes or relieve them of recess duty so they can cope. The team provides support for anywhere from two days to a week.

While McGregor admits it can take a toll on her emotionally, she believes the service is making a difference in the lives of students and staff. For example, the team was deployed when Cpl. Nathan Cirillo was shot and killed at Parliament Hill in 2014, to provide support to students in schools with a large military population.

“It’s a presence in the school, that validation that we recognize what you’re going through something difficult and we’re here for you,” McGregor said.


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

kendra.wong@goldstream

gazette.com

Just Posted

U.S. college bribery scandal shines light on serious problem in Canada

Looking at the bigger picture of marginalization in universities

Mommy’s Inside Voice: The self-love struggle

Hats off to us babes. We are alive, and kickin’, despite everything that has fought for the opposite

Victoria doctor forced into early retirement as specialist moves into rental space

General practitioner says he can’t afford rising rents, even amidst doctor shortage

Three deemed heroes after fiery crash rescue on the Hump

Two people taken to hospital following head-on collision near Port Alberni

Five highlights in the 2019 federal budget

Latest budget includes a sprinkling of money for voters across a wide spectrum

BC Ferries looks for more feedback on 25-year plan for Swartz Bay

Some suggestions already under consideration include a cycling route, waterfront park

Officer leads the flare in Saanich Police’s social media

Triangle dance latest addition to Saanich Police social media anthology

Facebook to overhaul ad targeting to prevent discrimination

The company is also paying about $5 million to cover plaintiffs’ legal fees and other costs

B.C. mosque part of open-house effort launched in wake of New Zealand shootings

The ‘Visit a Mosque’ campaign aims to combat Islamophobia

‘That’s a load of crap’: Dog poop conspiracy spreads in White Rock

Allegation picked up steam through a Facebook page run by a city councillor

Explosives unit brought in after suspicious boxes left at B.C. RCMP detachment

Nanaimo RCMP issues all clear after packages were found on lawn earlier in the day

2019 BUDGET: As deficit grows, feds spend on job retraining, home incentives

Stronger economy last year delivered unexpected revenue bump of an extra $27.8 billion over six years

Newfoundland man caught after posting photo of himself drinking and driving

The 19-year-old took a photo of himself holding a beer bottle and cigarette while at the wheel

Most Read