Team responds in time of need
Student's death puts volunteers into action
By Edie Grossfield
Rochester public schools' crisis response team swung into action Friday after hearing that John Marshall High School student Kevin Langlie died in a hiking accident Thursday.
If the 17-year-old's friends, teachers, coaches and administrators are in need of support, the response team will provide it for as long as necessary, said Tim Alexander, the district's human resources director and co-organizer of the team.
Friday morning, the team, which includes social workers, psychologists, counselors and administrators from a variety of schools in the district, went to John Marshall to be available for students and adults needing to talk.
Alexander said the team will be available Monday as well. Because a teachers conference on Thursday and Friday gave students time off, it is likely some students and adults will come to school Monday unaware of Langlie's death.
Counselors were not available for comment Friday, but Alexander said there were opportunities at John Marshall for people to gather in groups or receive one-on-one support. In addition, students in crisis situations usually are given the chance to express their feelings through writing, and Alexander said he expected that would be true this time.
The crisis response team is made up of between 20 and 25 people from different schools and educational backgrounds in the district. Depending on whether the need is at an elementary, middle or high school, team members with the appropriate age experience are sent to help.
Also, the district is careful to meet the needs of the adults in the affected school.
"They're often in as serious a crisis mode or even more than the students themselves," Alexander said.
Many times, the adults in a school will say they are fine but actually are suffering more than they let on, he added. "The loss of a student can be pretty devastating to an adult that has pretty significant connections with these students."
When it was created about five years ago, the response team received a three-day training from the National Organization for Victim Assistance in Washington, D.C.
Alexander said the last time the response team was called upon was about one year ago when a Century High School teacher was killed in a car accident.
He said the team is "extremely effective."
"It's well-organized, people know their roles. They're there to listen and be supportive, but not to do therapy. It shows there's support for the building (in need) and that they don't have to feel like they're on an island -- there's people willing to come and help."