Other than prescribing to a few themes for certain times of year, our blog posts for ParaEducate are most definitely organic and spontaneous when compared to other blog postings and blog organizations as we have been heavily influenced by life in the trenches showing the growth inclusion provides to all students, staff, and teachers at inclusive campuses.
This is not an easy topic for many, including Renay. So if you are sensitive to the topic of death, maybe come around to reading this blog post another time. But, due to the nature of things that have recently happened, we decided that we needed to talk about it.
This week, we are departing early from our “beginning of the year” theme to talk about something we rarely ever want to address in inclusive education. Students sometimes die. No matter your relationship with death, majority of folks agree, youth shouldn’t die – no matter the means – suicide, illness, accident, or unknown. Educators are folks who are deeply concerned with addressing this and especially to teenagers and focusing on at risk youth. Educators have been given the goal of educating the next generation. Death of any student leaves a scar on that goal, not only for the educator, but the friends of that student, and the family of that student. And it doesn’t matter if the student was a “general education student” or a “special education student”, death is just as tragic for all who have come to know that student.
This week, we’ve been examining this issue a lot. When a student dies, you don’t have any real words. You may have memorized the phrases, “I’m sorry for your loss” or “My thoughts and prayers are with you and your loved ones in this time.” But that’s not really enough.
Here are some things to remember when a student passes, regardless of circumstances.
- Take care of yourself.
Take the time to cry. It may not come right away. Someone in your community is gone. Whether or not you really knew the student or not, doesn’t matter. Death affects every person differently. And as a part of this, realize grief is a process. You may have a hard time those firsts, the first week, the first time you wanted to share something with that student, or even that first anniversary. If you need counseling or medical assistance: do not hesitate to get that assistance. This isn’t time to try and be brave because you’re needed.
2. Allow students with disabilities to know.
This is part that a lot of people might be tempted to skip over. Their peer has passed. They might not really understand death, but they know their classmates are upset. They, like their classmates may have questions, some may have less depending on the nature of their disabilities.
3. Try to attend the memorial or funeral services if the family desires the student’s teachers to be there, but go with other staff members or take a close family friend to help you out being there.
This is about supporting the family, it’s about grieving, and it’s about accepting the death, even when you might not be able to.
4. Follow the district guidelines when discussing a student’s death. Hopefully your district has a student crisis plan.
This is a list of “to do” and people whose job it is to talk to the family and convey their wishes for what they want the public to know. This is important. Media and social media are swirling with rumors. Students can be very reactive in the death of a student. Trained grief consolers should help the students who need it the most.
5. Be supportive if you didn’t know that student.
Cover for a co-worker if they can’t be in the room at the moment. Give them a safe place to talk when they are grieving.
Death is not easy, at any age.
If you or a loved one needs help please call the National Suicide Hotline:
Do you have any questions about this week’s blog? Do you want to offer a guest blog? Find ParaEducate online here, here, here, here, and on our website. Paraeducate is a company interested in providing materials, information, and strategies for people working in special education inclusion settings for grades K-12. ParaEducate, the blog, is published weekly during the academic school year on Thursdays, unless a holiday. ParaEducate shares their findings at conferences, through their books, and their academic adaptations.