When a Student is Grieving

National organization offers ongoing support to educators

The Coalition to Support Grieving Students is a unique collaboration of the leading professional organizations representing classroom educators (e.g., AFT and NEA), principals, administrators, student support personnel, and other school professionals who have come together with a common conviction: grieving students need the support and care of the school community.

The Coalition’s purpose is to create and share a set of widely-endorsed free resources that will empower school communities across America in the ongoing support of their grieving students. AMLE is proud to be a Supporting Organizational Member of the Coalition.

Why the Coalition Exists

Childhood bereavement is all too common: in the United States, approximately one in 20 children will lose a parent by the time they reach 16 years of age and 9 in 10 children experience the death of a close friend or family member by the time they complete high school.

Yet grieving children are vastly overlooked—both in society at large and in schools in particular. Schools have a critical role to play in the grief journey of children who have lost a loved one. Teachers’ and classmates’ response to a student’s grief can either serve as a source of support and stability during a difficult time, or as an additional hurdle to surmount.

Moreover, grief can have a serious impact on learning for school-age children; bereavement can manifest itself in decreased academic performance, social withdrawal, and new behavioral problems.

By demonstrating support, educators have an enormous opportunity to improve outcomes for their students. Unfortunately, the vast majority of teachers feel unequipped for this task. In a survey on grief at school conducted by the New York Life Foundation in conjunction with the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), 7 in 10 teachers reported having at least one grieving student currently in their classroom.

While 89 percent of teachers believe there should be a greater focus on training educators to support grieving students, only 7 percent reported having had any amount of bereavement training. Teachers desire, but currently lack, the knowledge of how to support the grieving students in their midst and identify this as the single greatest barrier preventing them from reaching out and offering support.

Our Task

The Coalition to Support Grieving Students has come together to remedy this gap by developing a set of resources prepared by and broadly approved by leading professional organizations to guide educators and other school personnel in supporting and caring for their grieving students.

The primary resource, www.grievingstudents.org, provides practical, accessible information for classroom educators, principals, administrators, student support personnel, and other school professionals. Informed by the expertise of Dr. David Schonfeld and other leading bereavement experts in the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement (www.schoolcrisiscenter.org), and with feedback and contributions from more than 60 participating organizations including the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE), this online resource captures current best practices for addressing grief at school through a dynamic multimedia approach with over 20 video training modules on topics ranging from how to talk with grieving students to responding to a school crisis event. The site also includes module summaries, handouts, reference materials, and guidance documents providing step-by-step practical advice that are available for download at no cost.