Crisis Intervention in Public Schools

Article excerpt

Building a Collection for Parents and Professionals

Unfortunately and with increasing frequency, elementary and secondary schools have had to respond to violence on campus. While these tragedies have been front-page news, they are only one type of crisis with which schools must cope. Teachers, counselors, school administrators, and other professionals are far more likely to be called upon to respond to crises that directly impact a greater number of children. These crises range from bullying and name-calling to child abuse and neglect.

Crisis management has become a major concern for school professionals. In May 2000 American School and University, a core periodical for school administrators, launched a new column on crisis management.[1] Since the deadly shooting at Colorado's Columbine High School in April 1999, school districts across the nation have drawn up crisis response plans. State legislatures have begun to require public schools to develop written crisis response plans. In California, for example, schools are required to file written emergency plans.[2] These plans enabled officials to respond quickly to the recent school shooting at Santana High School in Santee, California.

David Duggar's guest column will assist librarians in developing collections to serve school counselors, administrators, teachers, and other professionals involved in school crisis planning. Librarians may also be called upon to provide resources to parent groups. Additionally, this topic is gaining coverage in various undergraduate and graduate curriculums. Duggar is a reference librarian at the Louisiana State University Health Science Center in Shreveport. He has been interested in crisis intervention in schools since 1998. In fact, this column builds on a poster session he presented at the 1998 Annual Meeting of the South Central Chapter of the Medical Library Association.--Editor

The incidence of violence at schools has received nationwide attention through media reports of shootings in West Paducah, Kentucky; Pearl, Mississippi; Jonesboro, Arkansas; Edinboro, Pennsylvania; Springfield, Oregon; and Richmond, Virginia.[3] Media coverage of the tragedy at Columbine has persisted in the national news with special reports on each anniversary of the incident and a continuation of stories about the survivors, victims, and perpetrators. Some might consider this type of violence as the major crisis in schools.

However, shootings are neither the only crisis nor the typical crisis to occur at schools. A crisis can be a fire, accidental injury, or a natural disaster. Events outside of the school setting can also dramatically affect life within the school. Divorce, the death or injury of a family member, or abusive situations can all significantly alter how teachers and students act or respond in school.

A crisis can be defined as "a period of psychological disequilibrium which is experienced in the face of a hazardous event which can never be escaped nor solved with customary problem-solving resources."[4] Those caught in a crisis will experience a crisis reaction. These reactions include "helplessness, inadequacy, confusion, anxiety, and tiredness" and those affected may "experience disorganization in work and interpersonal relationships" and suffer from "lowered self-esteem and depression."[5] As defined, a crisis reaction may be experienced by a student on picture day, on exam day, or on the day of an important deadline, such as application for college admission.

When a crisis reaction is experienced, normal problem-solving resources have to be supplemented or replaced by crisis intervention in order to restore balance to the student's life. Intervention is defined as "the process whereby helpers are attempting to restore psychological equilibrium by improving the student's coping skills and offering new alternatives for handling the troubling situation and the stress which it has created. …