AFT joins effort to help grieving students

New resource helps school staff know what to do and say

NINE IN 10 CHILDREN suffer the death of a family member or friend by the end of high school, yet a recent survey indicates that only 7 percent of AFT members have received the type of training that can help them support students at these difficult times. That is a terrible mismatch of challenges and supports, a problem the AFT is working to fix in partnership with other groups in the Coalition to Support Grieving Students.

The coalition has unveiled Grieving, a resource designed to help school employees do their best in supporting bereaved kids. AFT President Randi Weingarten took part in the January launch, telling of the deep pride she felt in our union’s role as a founding partner in this project.

“More than 2 in 5 teachers say schools pay more attention to how students are dressed than to student grief,” Weingarten said. “As a teacher, I encountered students regularly who were grieving. I was glad I could be there to help but also was able to refer them to resources in the school for support. All of that has changed with the loss of school guidance counselors, social workers and psychologists. We should be wrapping mental health services around schools to help address grief.”

The coalition’s new resource is free and captures best practices through videos and downloadable modules, materials informed by the work of the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement. At, school staff can engage in self-directed professional development that provides the information, insights and practical advice needed to better understand and meet the needs of grieving students. Topics include grief triggers, peer supports, connecting with families, impact on learning, and what to say—and not say.

Founding member groups of the coalition include the American School Counselor Association, the National Association of School Nurses, the National Association of School Psychologists and the National Education Association. The lead founders are the National Center for School Crisis and Bereavement and the New York Life Foundation. The website was created in partnership with Scholastic Inc.

PSRP Reporter, Spring 2015 Download PDF (913.38 KB)
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