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Best Practices in School Crisis Prevention and Intervention (2nd Edition) — An Interview With the Authors

By John Desrochers

In the following interview, Stephen Brock and Shane Jimerson talk with Communiqué about the new second edition of their book, Best Practices in School Crisis Prevention and Intervention, published by the National Association of School Psychologists.

Communiqué: What exactly does this book cover?

Dr. Brock: As the title implies, Best Practices in School Crisis Prevention and Intervention reviews empirically supported practices for the primary and secondary prevention of school-associated crisis events. After a brief introduction that examines the progress made in this area since publication of the book's first edition, the first of five sections addresses the proactive steps schools can (and should) take to foster mentally healthy and resilient students, to prevent crises, and to prepare for those critical incidents that cannot be prevented. Section 2 provides an overview of the immediate school crisis response, including the comprehensive/multidisciplinary crisis team, cultural and developmental considerations in crisis response, and legal and ethical issues. Section 3 presents content focused on the school's response to specific crisis events. Chapter titles in Section 3 include: War and Terrorism, Parental Deployment, Sudden and Unexpected Death, Violent Thoughts and Behaviors, Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviors, Student Suicide, Health Crises, Economic Crisis, Natural Disasters, and Industrial and Man-Made Disasters. While severe psychopathology is not a typical response following crisis event exposure, such mental health challenges are a possibility. Consequently, Section 4 reviews approaches for identifying and treating these more severe reactions. Finally, the book concludes with a section that examines future research directions for both school crisis prevention and mental health crisis intervention.

Communiqué: Why do we need a book on this topic?

Dr. Brock: It is not a question of if, but rather when any given school will need to respond to the aftermath of a crisis event. Consequently, it is critical that all educators (but especially school-based mental health professionals) better understand empirically supported best practices in school crisis prevention and intervention. While tragedies such as the school shooting last year in Connecticut are fortunately rare, other events (such as a sudden and unexpected death) are relatively common. Furthermore, when it comes to coping with crises, the young people in our school systems represent an especially vulnerable population. In particular, our primary grade students lack the problem solving abilities that help most adults and older adolescents successfully cope with crises. This reality makes the need for high quality school crisis prevention and intervention even greater.

Communiqué: Why do we need a second edition of this book?

Dr. Jimerson: The emphasis of Best Practices in School Crisis Prevention and Intervention is on research informing practice. During the past decade, since the publication of the first edition, there has been further research to advance knowledge and inform best practices. Thus, we believe it was imperative to provide a second edition that features contemporary science.

Communiqué: Who is the target audience?

Dr. Jimerson: This book provides pre- and in-service school-based mental health professionals (and other education professionals) with important reviews of school crisis prevention and intervention scholarship. The book is frequently used in seminars in school psychology, school counseling, and related professional graduate programs to provide foundational knowledge regarding best practices in school crisis prevention and intervention. In addition, all education professionals working in schools (e.g., administrators, teachers, counselors, psychologists) would also benefit from the contents of this book. Finally, it is anticipated that communitybased mental health and emergency response professionals, who may be involved in prevention and response activities, will also benefit from this book that includes valuable information about crisis prevention and intervention focusing on children and the school context.

Communiqué: Tell us a little bit about your background and how it contributed to your writing this book.

Dr. Brock: It was a warm October morning when my school principal called me into her office to tell me about an accidental shooting that had left one of our special education students in serious condition at a local hospital. And making matters even more challenging, this student was shot by a friend who was also enrolled at our school. Given my job title as the Davis Elementary school psychologist, I knew I needed to respond. I knew why Mrs. Scott had called me into her office. Unfortunately at this early stage of my career, very little in my professional development had prepared me to provide this support. It was this incident, and subsequent school crisis interventions, that prompted me to engage in decades-long self-study, applied crisis intervention work, and research. These efforts have included working with an amazing group of NASP members on the National Emergency Assistance Team (NEAT) and participating in the development of the PREPaRE crisis prevention and intervention training curriculum. Combined, these efforts have culminated in the publication of the second edition of Best Practices in School Crisis Prevention and Intervention.

Dr. Jimerson: In graduate school, I worked for more than 2 years with the Center for Grief, Loss, and Transition in St. Paul, Minnesota supporting bereaved children and families. As a graduate student studying school psychology and child development, I embraced the view that there was much we could do to help support bereaved children and families both in and out of the school context. In addition to my professional experiences working with bereaved youth, I reviewed all the books and research I could locate on the topic, including participating in seminars in the medical school focused on mortuary science, and also participating in the annual conferences of the Association of Death Educators and Counselors, the Thanatology Association. It was important to me to bring science to practice to benefit children, and over the course of 3 years, I collaborated with colleagues to develop the five-book series, Mourning Child Grief Support Group Curriculum (Lehmann, Jimerson, & Gaasch, 2000), including a preschool, early childhood, middle childhood, and adolescent curriculum. Over the past 2 decades I have had considerable experience in developing prevention programs and providing workshops to facilitate prosocial skills and healthy development, as well as many collaborations to support bereaved youth following the death of parents/ grandparents/siblings, student suicides, automobile accidents, shootings at schools, and natural disasters. I continue to be actively involved with professional development at the university, state, national, and international levels, including ongoing activities with the International Crisis Response Network of the International School Psychology Association. Collectively, these experiences have served as the foundation for my enthusiasm to contribute to the first and second edition of Best Practices in School Crisis Prevention and Intervention.