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Supporting Grieving Students
January 1, 2019 - December 31, 2285
Approximately 9 of 10 students experience the death of a close friend or family member and approximately 1 in 20 U.S. children experience the death of a parent by 16 years of age. These major losses have the potential to cause short- and long-term effects on the psychological functioning, academic achievement, emotional adjustment, health, and developmental trajectory of students. Classroom educators can play a vital role in providing important support to students to help them better understand what has happened, minimize the academic impact through academic accommodations, help them learn coping strategies to accelerate their adjustment and minimize their distress, and minimize maladaptive coping mechanisms and behavioral difficulties. Yet the vast majority of teachers report that they never received any training in how to support a grieving student -- and this is the primary reason they don’t reach out and support grieving students in their class. The goal of this training is so that no child has to grieve alone.
Supporting Grieving Students

Grieving Student Photo

The Coalition to Support Grieving Students


The Coalition to Support Grieving Students (of which KDP is a Supporting Organizational Member) is a unique collaboration of the leading professional organizations representing classroom educators (including teachers, paraprofessionals, and other instructional staff), principals, assistant principals, superintendents, school board members, and central office staff, student support personnel (including school counselors, school nurses, school psychologists, school social workers, and other 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, with over 90 organizational members, has created a set of widely-endorsed resources; this course incorporates over 20 of these video-based modules that cover a wide range of topics that prepare educators to support grieving students.

Professional development
  • Self-paced, asynchronous, start any time
  • 10 hours of learning, includes full lifetime access to course discussions and materials
  • Certified badge (micro-credential) awarded upon successful completion of final project
Competencies addressed

As a result of viewing the video segments, and engaging in the related discussion and activities, you will be able to:

  • Initiate conversations with students after the death of a family member or friend
  • Discuss the role of guilt in impacting adjustment to a loss
  • Describe grief triggers and advise on how to minimize their impact in a school setting, as well as other academic accommodations
  • Consider issues of professional self-care when supporting children and staff who are grieving.
Standards met

Meets InTASC professional standards for the licensing of new teachers, including:

  • 3(f) The teacher communicates verbally and nonverbally in ways that demonstrate respect for and responsiveness to the cultural backgrounds and differing perspectives learners bring to the learning environment.
  • 3(q) The teacher seeks to foster respectful communication among all members of the learning community.
  • 3(r) The teacher is a thoughtful and responsive listener and observer.
  • 9(f) The teacher advocates, models, and teaches safe, legal, and ethical use of information and technology including appropriate documentation of sources and respect for others in the use of social media.
  • Any teacher can take this course (no prior knowledge or actual classroom experience is required).
  • Access to Internet on mobile device or computer. No purchase of additional materials needed.
  • Review and engagement of all content material included in the course, in the sequence presented.
  • Successful completion of final project.
Content and format
  • 6 units, including 21 video-based modules of generally 10-15 minutes in length:
  1. Conversation and Support
    1. Talking with children
    2. What not to say
    3. Providing support over time
    4. Peer support
  2. Developmental and Cultural Considerations
    1. Concepts of death
    2. Connecting with families
    3. Cultural sensitivity
  3. Practical Considerations
    1. Funeral attendance
    2. Secondary and cumulative losses
    3. Coordinating services and supporting transitions
    4. Social media
  4. Reactions and Triggers
    1. Impact on learning
    2. Guilt and shame
    3. Other reactions
    4. Grief triggers
  5. Professional Preparation and Self-Care
    1. Professional preparation
    2. Professional self-care
  6. Crisis and Special Circumstances
    1. Death and school crisis
    2. Suicide
    3. Commemoration and memorialization
    4. Potentially life-limiting conditions
  • Opportunities for personal reflections related to selected topics and the invitation to share learnings with other course participants
  • Final project: Will involve either a response to a vignette by outlining strategies that a classroom educator might utilize to provide support and assistance, with particular emphasis on academic and learning accommodations, or the preparation of a lesson for 4-8-year-old students to teach the four concepts of death.
About the author

David J Schonfeld, MD, is a developmental-behavioral pediatrician who founded and directs the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement ( For over 30 years, he has supported schools in the aftermath of crisis and loss, including shootings/stabbings in Parkland, FL, Newton, CT, Benton, KY, Las Vegas, NV, Marysville, WA, Osaka, Japan, Corning, CA, Aurora, CO, Platte Canyon, CO, Chardon, Oh, Townville, SC; flooding from Hurricanes Maria (San Juan), Sandy (NYC/NJ), Katrina (New Orleans), Ike (Galveston); tornadoes in Joplin, MO and Alabama; wildfires in Butte County, CA, Sonoma County, CA, Sevierville, TN; and Sichuan earthquake. His school-based research (e.g., funded by NICHD, NIMH, NIDA, MCHB, WT Grant) involves children’s understanding of and adjustment to serious illness and death and school-based interventions to promote adjustment and risk prevention. He is a member of the National Biodefense Science Board and former Commissioner for the National Commission on Children and Disasters and the Sandy Hook Advisory Commission.