This month’s School Crises Media Spotlight is about the tragic death of a student from Victoria’s Huntingtower School while away on a school camp.
Expert commentary is provided by schools issues and crises expert, Sam Elam, managing director of Media Manoeuvres.
Media Sources: The Age, The Australian, Herald Sun,www.abc.net.au:
Huntingtower School student dies on school camp at Plumbago Station in South Australia
February 23, 2016
“A teenager from Melbourne has died while on a school camp in South Australia.The 17-year-old from Huntingtower School in Mount Waverley, in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs, was camping with 77 students when he fell ill and died on Monday night.”… Read More
Sam’s Expert Commentary:
Many, many schools talk to me about their fear of a death on school camps. It is a real risk and concern for every school. There are two media strategies to consider should this unfortunate situation happen.
Before I outline strategies, the most important thing to remember is that the police will be the first people to make any public statements about any accident involving death. Allow them to take the lead on that. It will also give you more time to prepare your information, if you choose to make a public statement.
The two media strategies:
- Let the police be the mouth piece and politely decline any interviews out of respect for the family of the affected, his/her/their friends and your school community
- Respond to the media in a caring and concerned way talking about the student/s upfront and the school afterwards. This is my preferred option, and this is what the principal of Huntingtower School did last month and did it very well. (Make sure you inform parents you will be doing this)Show your emotion in a controlled manner, which will not be difficult because you will be emotional. If you feel you will break down, it is best not to choose this option, as you are representing the school and will need to show you are ably in control to lead the support and assistance for others’ in your community who are grieving.Be careful to restrict the amount of detail you offer. You cannot talk directly about the circumstances of the accident or incident. Even general details need to offered carefully as some of these may become the subject of legal proceedings further down the track.
Principal, Mr Bowen had some some excellent messages printed in this article:
- He relayed his and his community’s sadness
- He only confirmed aspects he knew. For example, there were no animals involved or any catastrophic event leading to the death
- He confirmed the school was supporting its community with counselling
- He put the death in perspective – the first one in the schools history
Watch the news coverage and Huntingtower School Principal, Sholto Bowen’s media statement here.