Responding to Crisis Within A Tiered Supports System: A Collaborative Approach to School Crisis Planning
“The complex issues being faced by students and caregivers require a diverse set of resources to ensure quality and responsiveness – but they must be experienced in a holistic, integrated way.”
In our blog post The Importance of A School Crisis Plan, also in our Responding to Crisis Within A Tiered Supports System series, we explain why a crisis plan is necessary to support the urgent needs of students. In this post, we will discuss how a collaborative approach to crisis planning will support students and staff, ensure an immediate response for students and families, mitigate re-traumatization, and aid in recovery.
Too often, tiered support systems are set up to sort students into “buckets” of those that are viewed as capable and not capable. A successful crisis plan recognizes that all students have unique strengths and needs. These are best met with an integrated and holistic approach that relies on collaboration between educators, clinicians, and communities.
Four Key Principles of a Tiered Support System
The crisis plan should reflect the four key principles of the overall tiered support system:
- Recognize and support the needs of all children to understand that each child’s needs fluctuate throughout their academic careers.
- Provide supports in a holistic and integrated way. A school environment should function like the human body, made up of different parts all working in sync with one goal in mind: to keep us alive. All body parts, though different in function and size, are dependent on one another.
- Require strong collaboration among all adults in a student’s context. The commitment to a holistic approach that addresses the student’s environment, their relationships, and the development of their skills and mindsets, along with a strong curriculum, requires a collaborative approach.
- Operate with an understanding of the impact of trauma and adversity on learning and development. A strong understanding of the roots of trauma-related challenges and the impact of traumatic experiences on learning and development.
Strong collaboration is an essential feature of a high-functioning tiered support system. Schools rushing to put a system in place will find it especially hard to prioritize collaboration—and even the most robust systems will be put to the test within this changing, hybrid environment. But collaboration across stakeholders (e.g., educators, mental health professionals, support staff) is critically important in the design and implementation of a crisis plan. The complex issues being faced by students and caregivers require a diverse set of resources to ensure quality and responsiveness – but they must be experienced in a holistic, integrated way. As schools adopt new ways to support their school communities, teachers and student support staff must have defined roles, clear responsibilities, and shared ownership to launch and maintain a successful system.
Strong collaboration among all adults in a young person’s context supports student development in critical ways. Schools must recognize that all children need fluctuating levels of support throughout the academic career, both in and out of school. Leveraging the support of other stakeholders in the school, family, and outside community supports a holistic approach that addresses the student’s environment, relationships, and skills and mindsets, along with a strong curriculum.
Teachers are often the first line of defense when meeting the emotional needs of students. As such, they have a unique opportunity to support all students by proactively mitigating the impact of stress and trauma on them. But teachers cannot do it alone; they must work collaboratively with leaders and student support staff to identify additional ways to meet the unique needs of a subset of students. Working with other specialists and student families can support highly targeted plans for students that are most in need. This will also help maintain ongoing communication about student concerns, identify students with the greatest need, and refer them immediately to student support staff.
Student support staff play a crucial role in a successful school re-entry plan. It is their role to understand the events and their impact on victims and design a plan to be responsive and supportive in mitigating or healing that impact. School leadership and teachers should work closely with student support to leverage their strengths and expand resources. For example, one first step could be completing a needs assessment for the school community to support students and those impacted to move forward with positive outcomes. This also helps schools be more proactive in meeting the needs of their communities, ultimately minimizing the need for individualized supports by meeting student needs before they escalate.
Roles and Responsibilities
All in all, each member of a school community has a responsibility in a school crisis plan. Implementing a collaborative approach in working together will produce successful outcomes in supporting student and caregiver needs. Turnaround for Children curated a set of tools and resources to help educators take a collaborative approach in the creation of their crisis plan. Three of these resources are:
- Re-entry Guidance for Teachers, which provides a clear explanation of a teacher’s role in the plan alongside tangible examples of how to work collaboratively with leaders and student support.
- Re-entry Guidance for Student Support, which clearly articulates how to create a plan that leverages the strengths and resources of this role and informs leadership and teachers on how to move forward toward more positive outcomes.
- Caregiver Interview Guide, which is one pathway to understanding caregivers’ perspective and an input to the crisis plan to address individual student needs. This process is critical for strong collaboration among all adults in a student’s contexts.