Planning for the Aftermath of a School Tragedy


Thomas T. Frantz


Associate Professor of Counseling and Educational Psychology State University of New York at Buffalo


Our purpose is to discuss a basic postvention plan that can be adopted for use in any school following a death or tragedy. The plan is designed to go into effect the first school day after the trauma has occurred.


To initiate thinking about postvention, consider the following specific questions that will usually arise:

  1. How and when should students and faculty be informed of the pertinent details surrounding it?
  2. How, when, and where should students be allowed to express their reactions?
  3. What should be done for victims’ close friends?
  4. What should be done for “high risk” students?
  5. Should the school hold a special assembly or memorial service?
  6. Should there be a symbolic expression of grief, such as lowering the flag to half- mast?
  7. Should the school close for the funeral?
  8. Who should go to the funeral?
  9. What kinds of commemorative activities or symbols—plaques, memorial funds, etc.—are appropriate?
  10. Should the victims’ parents be contacted and what help can be offered to them?
  11. What should be done about the concerns of other parents?
  12. How should the school deal with the media?
  13. Should the school turn to outside consultation for help? To whom?
  14. What reactions from students should be expected?
  15. Should a regular school schedule be followed the day after?
  16. How long should the school be concerned about student reactions?
  17. How much grieving or “acting out” should be allowed?
  18. Should students be involved in planning the school’s response?
  19. Who should organize and coordinate the school’s response?
  20. What about siblings or affected students in other schools?
  21. What should teachers say to students in their classes?


*Reprinted with permission from Thomas T. Frantz