Intervention Strategies for Disruptions

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Every school should design its own plan of action for dealing with disruptions. One such plan has been the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT). CITs have been formed at many elementary and secondary schools to deal with events surrounding any unusual circumstances affecting faculty, staff, and students. These events might include those that demand immediate action (e.g., hostage situation, sniper on campus, suicide on campus, or evacuation of a building due to a gas leak) and those that are serious but not requiring immediate attention (e.g., untimely death of a student or staff member due to an accident, suicide, or illness).

The design of an effective crisis-response model for schools should include:
  • a district emergency plan
  • a crisis team at each site
  • a crisis plan for each school site

District Management Plan

An overall management plan should be designed and coordinated by a district-level CIT. Administrators and other individuals with special responsibility and/or expertise in crisis response (e.g., mental health professionals, police officials, and health professionals) should establish district-wide guidelines for crisis management, provide opportunities for district staff to receive adequate and ongoing training, ensure that each school has a fully operational crisis team, and coordinate special assignments of school and community personnel in the event of a crisis.

School districts should develop a crisis plan prior to a crisis situation. Crisis Intervention Procedures and Crisis Intervention Plan for an Intruder are innovative crisis-intervention plans. Staff development activities within individual school buildings should be used to inform all staff members about the crisis plan. Specific plans of action may vary depending upon the crisis. In the event of a crisis, staff members should be knowledgeable about the sequence of events to be implemented and should be conscious of the appropriate communications to provide to students, the media, and interested community members.

Crisis Team

Teachers, counselors, administrators, secretaries, students, and support staff can volunteer to be members of the school-site CIT. Individuals can serve for one year or longer. A rule of thumb for crisis-team size is two members per 100 students. Team members serve three critical roles related to crisis situations:

  • prevention
  • intervention
  • postvention

The prevention role involves training in crisis-team functions, general first aid, risk assessment, and communication strategies. Intervention involves:

  • site management in the event of a crisis
  • communication with staff, students, parents, the community, and community agencies including fire, police, mental health, and hospitals
  • debriefing activities for staff, students, and parents

The addition and training of new members and participation in advanced training activities comprise the focus for postvention. CITs can be responsible for not only developing and implementing a crisis-management plan but also for recommending strategies for a safer school environment. Following are general principles for managing crises and building self-concepts:

  1. Intervene immediately – be proactive not reactive.
  2. Target the intervention toward the precipitating situation; that is, be situation specific.
  3. Provide correct information about the situation.
  4. Give truthful and realistic assurance.
  5. Empower the individual affected by the crisis by getting him or her involved in the intervention process.
  6. Provide necessary emotional support without patronizing the individual.
  7. Focus on accurate self-concepts (self-understanding, self-love, and self-empowerment).

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