Date of Award

December 2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Educational Psychology

First Advisor

Karen C Stoiber

Committee Members

Hobart W Davies, Kyongboon Kwon, Julia A Snethen


Crisis, PREPaRE, Psychologist, Qualitative, Response, School


The needs of a school community following the death of a student or staff member are not something every educator and/or school administrator may be prepared to address. Multi-disciplinary crisis response teams, particularly those operating at the district level, are equipped to respond to such situations rapidly and effectively. School psychologists, due to their categorization as “scientist practitioners” in the educational environment and their training in both therapeutic intervention models and tiered service delivery, are especially qualified to coordinate training for, manage, and serve on K-12 crisis response teams. Unfortunately, the definitive manualized program on school crisis response, PREPaRE (Brock et al., 2016), as well as other published literature on best practices, do not have an accompanying body of work categorizing and characterizing valuable perspectives from experienced practitioners in the field. The current study sought to address this gap between field experience and published research with a longitudinal statistical analysis of characteristic data from 6 consecutive school years (2016-2022) in a single large, urban school district, coupled with qualitative analysis of interviews conducted with eight experienced crisis responders in that district. A Chi-Square Test of Independence of aggregate data revealed that crises were frequent and numerous (152 cases) over the 6 years examined, disproportionately impacting high school students with homicides and gun violence, and in stark contrast to staff deaths (X2 (6, N=139) = 90.11, p<.001). Additionally, semi-structured interviews of experienced crisis responders indicated overwhelming agreement among the practitioners’ perceptions of factors influencing the effectiveness of crisis response and those presented in the literature. The majority of the participants (75%) mentioned suicide specifically as a particularly complicated factor. Differences in responses between participants who had the role of crisis counselor vs. team leadership were also evident. Specifically, counselors indicated more vicarious trauma and different reasons for their voluntary inclusion on the team as well as a greater emphasis on the importance of clear and consistent communication with students, when compared to the team leaders. Implications include an emphasis on staff resources for self-care, the importance of including trauma training for crisis response teams, and the need for further research from school districts of all sizes.