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School Policies and Procedures for Suicide Prevention

Children and adolescents are more susceptible to suicide contagion and suicide clusters. Because of this and other youth-specific risk factors, it is important for schools to establish policies and written procedures for suicide prevention and other behavioral incidents. School policies and procedures help ensure students are cared for and school staff are prepared and understand their role in helping at-risk students.

The Model School District Policy on Suicide Prevention provides language and guidelines schools can use to develop suicide prevention policies. The model policy covers topics such as re-entry to school after the death of a staff or student by suicide, in-school suicide attempts, out-of-school occurrences, parental involvement, and messaging related to suicide contagion.

Implementation Considerations

School policies and procedures should include best practices for school postvention after a suicide death or known attempt by a student or school staff member. Postvention protocols should address the needs of students directly affected by the death as well as those indirectly affected and experiencing stressful life events such as bullying, homelessness, a recent death of a loved one, a family history of suicide, a return from hospitalization for a suicide attempt, and/or involvement with the justice system.

It is best practice for school districts to establish a crisis plan and a crisis team for each school building. Plans should be clear in roles and responsibilities, reviewed annually, and made easily accessible so that all school staff know and understand them.

Resources to Learn More

After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools
Provides resources and recommendations to help school administrators and staff implement and manage a coordinated response in the aftermath of a suicide. Covers the best approach to communicating and offering support to students and their parents, and organizations outside the school community. Includes information on social media and contagion related to suicidal behavior, bringing in outside experienced help, and how to appropriately honor a student without contributing to additional suicide risk. Offers templates and tools to assist with varying steps in the postvention process.
Organization(s): Suicide Prevention Resource Center (SPRC), Education Development Center (EDC),
Date: 4/2018

Dougy Center
A national grief support center for children and families offering information, education, training, and resources to individuals and organizations wanting to help grieving children.

K-12 Toolkit Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention
An evidence-based youth suicide prevention policy implementation toolkit covering intervention procedures to recognize students exhibiting suicidal behaviors, postvention interventions for students after a suicide, and mental health promotion including social-emotional skills. Offers a variety of fact sheets and forms, and identifies educational opportunities for students, staff, and parents about youth mental health and suicidal ideation.
Organization(s): HEARD Alliance