A school crisis unexpectedly disrupts the school, causes emotional and physical distress, and requires extraordinary decisions and resources to restore stability. During a crisis, teachers and administrators are the first decision-makers. Yet, their training may not prepare them for this responsibility. The first school crisis framework published in educational psychology appeared in 1994, following a U.S. symposium of school psychologists to discuss a recent school massacre. In addition, cross-country communications forums and seminars recognized cultural considerations while fostering the exchange of school crisis research findings and their implications for practice. These efforts have led educational psychologists worldwide to adopt a temporal framework of recommended practices to guide educators’ decisions before, during, and after crises. Pre-crisis work includes assessment, prevention, planning, and training. Pre-crisis planning calls on expertise in multidisciplinary collaboration with other emergency responders and risk assessments that require one to choose measures and interpret data. Once a school staff identifies impending risks, educational psychologists collaborate with responder agencies to communicate some of this information. Planning for a crisis includes procedures for young children, as well as those with special needs, which calls on the psychologist to consider how best to assess their needs and accommodate these groups. Practices and drills call for behavioral observation skills and an understanding of stress reactions that impede compliance with directives. Here, the educational psychologist contributes technical expertise in behavioral observations and performance assessment. The crisis response phase thrusts educators into rapid collaborations with emergency responders to prevent casualties and reduce exposure to trauma. During a crisis, psychologists work alongside others to safeguard, reassure, and empower those affected, taking into account the assistance that older students may offer. Post-crisis efforts seek to restore psychological safety through the restoration of social supports, then address acute mental health needs. Educational psychologists impart clinical expertise to restore social supports, arrange for psychological first aid, minimize continued exposure, and triage mental health needs. Academic recovery requires decisions about how and when to resume instruction. A return to schooling, ongoing supports for victims and responders, and evaluations to improve school crisis responses comprise the final goals. Some view this post-crisis mental health work as the psychologist’s primary contribution; however, the aforementioned examples reveal a greater agenda of opportunities during all school crisis phases.
Mary Margaret Kerr
Gordon Capp, Hadass Moore, Ronald Pitner, Aidyn Iachini, Ruth Berkowitz, Ron Avi Astor, and Rami Benbenishty
School violence can be understood as any behavior that is intended to harm other people at schools or near school grounds. This may include bullying and victimization, or more severe forms of violence involving weapons. To respond effectively to school violence, school personnel and leaders must understand the influences on their schools that come from individuals, the surrounding community, and cultural and political spheres. Careful and ongoing assessment of the needs of any given school is also a prerequisite to effective intervention. The severity of violence, the exact location of violent acts, and how different groups on a school campus experience violence are all key details to understanding and measuring problems. With this information, schools are then able to choose intervention programs that will utilize a whole-school approach. Sometimes, existing Evidence Based Programs can address the needs of a particular school and surrounding community. Other times, schools need to either modify existing interventions or create their own to address the particular forms of violence that exist in their schools and communities.
Brian A. Gerrard and Gertina J. van Schalkwyk
School-based family counseling (SBFC) is an integrative systems approach to helping children succeed academically and personally through mental health interventions that link family and school. SBFC may be practiced by any of the mental health approaches and is best viewed as a supporting approach to traditional mental health disciplines. An important precursor to SBFC was the guidance clinics attached to schools that were developed by the psychiatrist Alfred Adler in Vienna in the 1920s. A core assumption in SBFC is that the two most important institutions in the life of a young child are the family and the school and that an effective way to help children is by mobilizing both family and school resources. SBFC has eight strengths: school and family focus, systems orientation, educational focus, parent partnership, multicultural sensitivity, child advocacy, promotion of school transformation, and interdisciplinary focus. Despite its early origins, SBFC remains a new approach that challenges traditional mental health disciplines that focus on either school or family, but not both. There is moderate evidence-based support (EBS) for the effectiveness of SBFC, but further research is needed on different approaches to SBFC.
Xu Zhao, Zhiyan Chen, and Leiping Bao
Adolescent psychology and mental health needs in China are part of an interdisciplinary area of research. In this area of research, macro and micro processes are closely linked; biological, cultural, and socio-structural influences tightly intertwined; and patterns identified in other societies fall apart due to the impact of powerful societal forces on individual psychology. As a result, there has been a fundamental and long-lasting split between the idea that “Chinese adolescent psychology” should be a distinctive science within China, addressing issues specific to the circumstances of Chinese children and families, and the argument that it should contribute to a universal theory of human development by documenting its applications to Chinese societies. The problem of the first idea lies in its assumption of cultural relativism or the incommensurability of the human experience of growing up in particular sociocultural contexts. In contrast, the problem of the second argument lies in its failure to ask what is “universal,” when a universal theory is applicable to China, and when it may not be. Arguably, adolescents in all cultures carry vulnerabilities and strengths as they go through the process of major biological and psychological transitions. Certain psychosocial needs, such as the needs for self-exploration, quality peer relationship, and continuous guidance and support from adults, are shared by adolescents across the world, albeit through different forms. When their basic needs are neglected by ideology-driven policies and practices that are carried to an extreme extent, youth mental health is seriously threatened. It is important for researchers not only to go beyond the dichotomous view of the field by taking an ecological approach and multidisciplinary perspectives to investigate the salient issues in adolescent psychology and mental health needs in their specific sociocultural context, but also to consider their broader implications for understanding universally relevant questions about success and sacrifice in human and social development.
Homelessness, with poverty and housing inaccessibility as its underlying structural drivers, has an enduring presence in all Western nations. While governments traditionally focus on supporting adults, families, and youth out of homelessness, increasingly attention is being turned to the significant number of children under 18 years who experience homelessness alone without an accompanying parent or guardian. Unaccompanied children commonly leave home early against the backdrop of family conflict and breakdown, domestic violence, physical and sexual abuse, and neglect. They may sleep rough without shelter, couch-surf between extended family members, friends, and acquaintances, and access those youth refuges that will accommodate them. Without access to the consistent care of a parent or guardian, unaccompanied homeless children experience unique personal, systemic, and structural vulnerabilities that, without adequate developmentally appropriate intervention, will result in a range of physical, psychological, social, and educational harms. Schools, as the sole universal statutory service for children, can be central in the immediate safeguarding of children and their referral to services for additional supports. Schools can also offer a pathway into lifelong learning, employment, and community connectedness that is crucial to reducing poverty and enabling wellbeing and social inclusion. As such, schools have a key role to play in responding to unaccompanied homeless children by ensuring equitable access to education and engaging with the international shift toward child and youth homelessness prevention and early intervention. Research consistently suggests school-based programs are key to identifying children at risk, preventing homelessness, and improving learning outcomes for those who do experience homelessness. At a minimum, schools can intervene in educational harms, such as low attainment and early school leaving, that are associated with high mobility, a lack of support, cumulative trauma, and stigma. Addressing administrative and practical barriers to homeless children’s school access and attendance, implementing trauma-informed practice, and increasing awareness of homelessness are essential starting points. Further, the trend of articulating child wellbeing as a shared, cross-sector goal has increasingly created opportunities for schools, in collaboration with social services, to become innovative homelessness prevention and early intervention hubs that strengthen children’s outcomes.