Media & Crisis

If something even resembling violence happens on one of your campuses, chances are the media will be there to cover it, and sometimes they will know before you will.....

We are not able to prevent crises from occurring but we can control the conditions in which we work through one and we do that through our district's crisis plan.

Be Prepared

  • Have individual school and district fact sheets prepared.
  • Identify a communication center and a separate media briefing area for each campus (this should be done together with the principal and the head of school security).
  • Pick the media briefing area carefully:
    - do not pick the area based on a site map
    - the area should be easily accessible to the media
    - the area should NOT give the media immediate and/or easy access to the campus.
  • The communication center is where all internal information flows to and from.
  • Make site maps of all your schools once the communication center and media briefing areas are chosen, making sure each is clearly marked on the site map.
  • Distribute the maps to educational teams.
  • Meet with the media spokespersons from your local police and fire departments and, if you are near a military installation, the public affairs officer. Review your plan and site maps so they know where to go, plus they will know who you are and will be more likely to stay in contact with your during a crisis (establishing rapport with those teams is very important).
  • Identify your school/crisis spokesperson and do not change your choice (if you have a public relations office, they should handle this duty because it frees up school personnel and they have access to pertinent school information).
  • If possible, individual school personnel should not speak with the media.
  • In a crisis situation and after the original media release is completed, the media should be updated every half-hour for the first two hours and then hourly thereafter, even if it means telling them there is nothing new to report.
  • Later briefings should contain information regarding steps the school will be taking the following day, i.e. checking school bags, increased police presence, need to show ID, etc.
  • Since a recent poll noted that more than 65% of Americans get their news from television, prepare your media releases for TV broadcast. If there is a crisis at your school, the large majority of parents will be tuning in to the TV news that night.
  • Try to be in the media briefing room before media arrive in the morning. If there is no new news, it is a good opportunity to note your district's concern for safety of the students, review steps being taken to secure the campus, etc., plus the district's record for having safe schools. These reports will make the noon news because you have established yourself as their only source of news until students come.
  • Understand that the media needs a story... let it be a controlled, child-focused story that will help restore the safety and security of the children.

Adapted by:

NOVA/NEAT facilitator
Oconomowoc Area School District

Adapted from:


Related Resource

Responsible Media Coverage of Crisis Events Impacting Children
While the media can play an important role in providing information about how children are coping, it can also cause real harm if its focus magnifies painful, disturbing details, people’s loss and suffering, or the possibility of future or ongoing threats. Share this handout with local media to ensure they are aware of the necessity of responsible coverage of crises impacting schools.

NASP Urges Continued Caution in Media Coverage of School Shootings
The recent school shootings in North Carolina and Colorado are two more tragic examples of the challenge we face as a nation to keep our children, schools, and communities safe from gun violence. While school shootings are statistically rare, even one is unacceptable.