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Crisis intervention service for schools

Published October 30. 2009 05:00PM

Area school districts have banded together to lend a helping hand during a time of crisis.

Collectively known as the "FLIGHT Team", the organization supports crisis intervention services for school districts and their communities in the aftermath of a traumatic experience.

Affiliated with the Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit No. 21, the FLIGHT Team is comprised of 66 members, such as administrators, bus drivers, athletic directors, school psychologists, guidance counselors, police officers, emergency management responders, social workers, security personnel, and teachers.

Since its inception, FLIGHT Team members have participated in an intense five-day Crisis Management Institute training, and have had a variety of experiences in crisis response.

As their names suggests, FLIGHT Team members "fly" to a school district facing a crisis, whereby the team supports a district's crisis response team and/or emergency management team.

The group, which also provides the same assistance to Parochial schools, typically meets about four times a year to discuss staff development and professional development.

The team assists students, staff, administration, and community members to help gain an understanding of grief, come to terms with loss, and how to support the grieving process while improving school climate.

In addition, the team also supports preparedness, response, renewal, and recovery; assists with immediate crisis intervention; supports school administrators; provided education for students, staff and parents; facilitates individual, small group and large group crisis intervention; supports in the management of media; identifies At-Risk Students; and supports existing school district crisis teams.

The initiative began with the Lehigh University School Study Council Conference in Oct. of 2004. In the winter of 2005, the Superintendent Advisory Council approved the program to begin training with Cheri Lovre from the Crisis Management Institute.

From there, training occurred in May of 2005, and again, in Nov. of 2007. Topics included organizational and administrative issues; grief; loss; bereavement; youth in grief; suicide prevention and intervention; Trauma I; interventions for the school; stabilizing after the tragedy; safe rooms; memorial events; pragmatics of crisis response; catastrophic events; and Trauma II.

The team is available upon the request of a school district superintendent, or his/her designee, and responds to crises such as traumatized student or staff members, death of a student or staff member, vehicle accidents, school shootings, natural catastrophic events, and suicide and child abduction.

There is no cost for the service; however, if a FLIGHT Team response is initiated, the team may request space, drinks and light snacks, supplies and duplicating services.

Within the past four years, the team has responded to 20 events within Carbon and Lehigh counties.

School districts the FLIGHT Team supports in Carbon are Palmerton Area School District, Lehighton Area School District, Jim Thorpe Area School District, Panther Valley Area School District, Weatherly Area School District, Carbon Career & Technical Institute, and Carbon Lehigh Intermediate Unit 21.

In Lehigh, it supports Northern Lehigh School District, Northwestern Lehigh School District, Allentown School District, Catasauqua Area School District, East Penn School District, Parkland School District, Salisbury Township School District, Southern Lehigh School District, Whitehall Coplay School District, and Lehigh Career & Technical Institute.

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