Montesano School District

Excellence in Education

Montesano is a community where people learn,
grow and work together.  With high-quality
instruction, every student, regardless of race, class,
language, or disability, can succeed. 

Teacher Guidelines for Crisis Response


What is a crisis and what is crisis response?

A crisis traumatic event that is typically unpredicted and overwhelming for those who experience it. A crisis response, as it pertains to the school environment, is a proactive, organized and well thought out plan to a crisis situation that has adversely affected many individuals in a school district, including students, faculty and administrators.

Why a Crisis Response Plan?

Research has revealed that schools are increasingly more prone to crisis situations that adversely affect large numbers of students and faculty. The rise of adolescent suicide, increased assaults on teachers, high levels of substance abuse among students and increased violence in the schools are some ofthe reasons cited.

A proactive approach to a crisis in one that is organized, planned and practiced and more likely results in a response that can have a dramatic effect on reducing the short and long-term consequences of the crisis on the individuals in a school district.

What types of behaviors/reactions can teachers expect from their students after a crisis situation has occurred?

The manner in which people react to crisis situations is dependent upon a number of variables including personal history, personality variables, severity and proximity of the event, level of social support and the type and quality of intervention. While no two people respond to situations, including crisis situations, in exactly the same manner, the following are often seen as immediate reactions to a significant crisis:

  • shock, numbnes
  • denial or inability to acknowledge the situation has occurred,
  • dissociative behavior - appearing dazed, apathetic, expressing feelings of unreality,
  • confusion,
  • disorganization,
  • difficutly making decisions, and
  • suggestibility.

It is important to note that most children will recover from the effects of a crisis with adequate support from family, friends and school personnel. Their response to a crisis can be viewed as "a normal response to an abnormal situation." While the emotional effects of the crisis can be significant and can potentially influence functioning for weeks to month, most children will evidence a full recovery.

The following are responses likely to observe in children:

  • Regression in Behavior
  • Incrase in Fears and Anxiety
  • Decreased Academic Performance and Poor Concentration
  • Increased Aggression and Oppositional Behavior, and Decreased Frustration Tolerance
  • Increased Irritability, Emotional Liability and Depressive Feelings
  • Denial

Understanding the typical reactions of individuals exposed to a crisis situation is a critical step in identifying people who may be in need of further professional assistance.

The following are age-appropriate reactions of individuals exposed to a traumatic event:

Preschool Children (Ages 1-5)

  • thumb sucking
  • speech difficulties
  • bed wetting
  • decreases or increases in appetite
  • fear of the dark
  • clinging and whining
  • loss of bladder control
  • separation difficulties

Childhood (Ages 5-11)

  • sadness & crying
  • school avoidance
  • physical complaints (e.g., headaches)
  • poor concentration
  • irritability
  • fear of personal harm
  • regressive behavior (clinging, whining)
  • bed wetting
  • anxiety & fears
  • confusion
  • eating difficulty
  • withdrawal/social isolation
  • attention-seeking behavior

Early Adolescence (Ages 11-14)

  • sleep disturbance
  • withdrawal/isolation from peers
  • incrase or decrease in appetite
  • loss of interest in activites
  • rebelliousness
  • generalized anxiety
  • school difficulty, including fighting
  • fear of personal harm
  • phyical ailments (e.g., bowel problems)
  • poor school performance
  • depression
  • concentration difficulties

Adolescence (Ages 14-18)

  • numbing
  • intrusive recollections
  • sleep disturbance
  • anxiety and feelings of guilt
  • eating disturbance
  • poor concentration and distractibility
  • psychosomatic symptoms (e.g., headaches)
  • antisocial behavior (e.g., stealing)
  • apathy
  • aggressive behavior
  • agitation or decrease in energy level
  • poor school performance
  • depression
  • peer problems
  • withdrawal
  • increased substance abuse
  • decreased interest in the opposite sex
  • amenorrhea or dysmenorrhea

What types of personal reactions can teachers expect after a crisis situation has occurred?

As in the case of children, the answer to this question is dependent on a number of variables including personal history, personality variables, severity and proximity of the event, level of social support and type and quality of intervention. The fact that some of the possible immediate adult reractions to a crisis are confusion, disorganization and difficulty in decision making, underscores the need for a preplanned, practiced and organized response plan. Longer term reactions that are experiences by adulta are:


  • denial
  • feelings of detachment
  • unwanted, intrusive recollections
  • depression
  • concentration difficulty
  • anxiety
  • psychosomatic complaints
  • hypervigilance
  • withdrawal
  • eating disturbance
  • irritability and low frustration tolerance
  • sleep difficulty
  • poor work performance
  • loss of interest in activities once enjoyed
  • emotional and mental fatigue
  • emotional lability
  • marital discord

Since teachers are likely to be affected by the crisis situation, it is imperative that they receive the appropriate support and intervention. Without such intervention, they will be limited in their ability to meet the needs of their students.

What can classroom teachers do to address the reactions of their students during a crisis situation?

Teachers are the "front lines" during and following a crisis situation. They have spent the most time with their students and often know them better than anyone in the school. Therefore, teachers are likely to be in a good position to provide early and ongoing intervention.

When should teachers refer students for more individualized assessment and intervention?

  • students who can not engage adequately in classroom assignments and activities after a sufficient amount of time has passed since the crisis and after a majority of their peers are able to do so,

  • students that continue to exhibit high levels of emotional responsiveness (e.g., crying, tearfulness) after a majority of their peers have discontinued to do so,

  • students who appear depressed, withdrawn and non-communicative,

  • students who continue to exhibit poorer academic performance and decreased concentration,

  • students who express suicidal or homicidal ideation, or students who are intentionally hurting themselves (e.g., cutting themselves),

  • students who exhibit an apparent increased usage of alcohol or drugs,

  • student who gain or lose a significant amount of weight in a short period of time,

  • students who exhibit significant behavioral changes, and

  • student who discontinue attending to their hygienic needs.


The immediacy and unpredictability of crisis situations often leave individuals with a sense of worry, vulnerability and distrust. A school system is unique in that it brings together individuals of all ages and professionals from numerous disciplines. Effective response to crisis capitalizes on the resources within the school environment. A Crisis Response Team that identifies and responds to a crisis in a unified and collaborative manner can alter the aftermath of a crisis.