Education Chat

Hurricane Katrina: Effect on Schools and Students

Education Week Assistant Managing Editor Robert Johnston and Stephen Brock from the National Association of School Psychologists took questions on how schools can help students displaced by the storm, how teachers and other education employees have been affected, and how states and districts in the region are responding to the crisis.

Hurricane Katrina: Effect on Schools and Students

Sept. 7, 2005


• Robert C. Johnston, Assistant Managing Editor, Education Week.

•Stephen Brock, National Association of School Pyschologists

Kevin Bushweller (Moderator):
Welcome to today’s online chat about how educators and students in the Gulf region are coping in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Our guests will be tackling a number of questions, such as: Will NCLB requirements be waived for districts in the region? How should educators comfort displaced students? And how can schools outside the region provide assistance?

This discussion replaces a previously scheduled online chat about virtual schools, which has been rescheduled for 3 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 8.

Let’s get today’s discussion started ...

Question from David DeSchryver, editor:
How will NCLB be applied to those schools taking in the Katrina students? Case by case flexability? and 2) Is there a central organizer for student aid?

Robert Johnston:
David, 1)As of today, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has gone on the record promising flexibility to states affected by Hurricane Katrina. Though she initially said she was not inclined to waive requirements for adequate yearly progress, she has more recently indicated that the department of ed. would consider requests on a case-by-case basis. Few other details have been released,though this is one of the issues that has come up most frequently in her dealings with the media. More information may be available soon. 2) I’m unaware of any central organizer for student aid, as there are a multitude of efforts under way at the federal, state and local levels.

Question from Alana Collins,Parent:
Will there be enough counselors in schools and after school to meet the emotional well being of these students.It will be awhile before they begin to come out of the shock so for now they will show no problems but about October behaviors will begin to show reaction.

Stephen Brock:
Alana; Some children will dispaly delayed reactions, but more likely than not I would anticipate most will be in the middle of acute crisis reactions at the time they enter school. For most, with the passage of time, return to normal routines, and support from caregiving adults these reactions will lessen.

Refer to the following handout for more information about the reactions of children to this event:

Question from Helen MacDermott, Web Content Administrator,
As many as 100,000 students are at risk of having their education disrupted because of Hurricane Katrina. Since last week, many schools and higher ed groups and associations have sprung into action, trying to assist these displaced learners in various ways. For example, to name a few: National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) is hosting a threaded message board related to Katrina recovery efforts; Society for College and University Planning (SCUP) has some excellent resources, as well as a list of institutional offers; Sallie Mae is offering a one-time relief loan of up to $1,000.00 for affected Gulf Coast students. The company for whom I work,, is another online clearinghouse where students can find educational alternatives and educational institutions can post opportunities to provide assistance. Can you provide any additional resources for students who are scrambling to find other schools to attend?

Robert Johnston:
The American Council on Education and the National Association of College and University Business Officers have created the Web site at:

Question from Regis Rothrauff, Assistant Director, School Readiness Group:
So-called “flood children” will at first be treated as distinct or novel. How quickly should a teacher act to normalize the classroom? Should the teacher encourage the displaced student to corporately share their personal flood experiences or would it be more appropriate to permit the child to individually offer up their story in their own time?

Stephen Brock:
Regis; Refer to for guidance on helping students who have been relocated.

Also, getting students back into school and a normal routine will help them to realize that not everything has changed and that recovery is possible. However, we do need to be sensitive to the fact that these kids have experienced some pretty truamtic things, thus we will need to be flexible.

Also, it is important to acknowledge that different children will have different needs. Some will want and be ready to talk about their experiences right away. Others will not be willing (or able) to do so. My best advice is to treat children individually, and to your cues for how to integrate them into your classroom from the student him- or herself


Question from Mary Ellen Taft, High School Counselor Coordinator, Raleigh, NC:
Could the Departments of Public Instruction in each state agree to a “reciprocity” for high school graduation requirements for these high school students who are seniors?

Robert Johnston:
Great question, and one I will forward to our reporters. States are using and expanding reciprocity for teachers in order to meet a growing demand for teachers in relief areas. We have not come across such agreements yet for students. Given that dozens of schools in the New Orleans area may be closed for the entire school year, it seems that this is an issue that will need exploration by state officials.

Question from Sara Kaminske, Manager-Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Orange County Department of Education, California:
What is currently being done to help with the emotional needs of displaced students at the school sites and is there a need for more Crisis Response Teams?

Stephen Brock:
It is clear that some schools and school districts will be more affected than will others (e.g., the schools of Houston will have a dramatic impact). Thus, there will be a need for schools to support each other. Specifically, I would like to see thoes school systems that are not receiving a lot of displaced students volunteer to share resources (e.g., school psychologists, counselors, social workers, nurses). This concept of mutual aid is one first responders have been using for years. With such mutual aid support the needs of school sites should be meet. If such mutual aid support systems are not already in place, now would be the time to develop them. Steve

Question from Michael Mancieri, Asst. Principal, Middletown, RI:
Hello, We will be accepting 500 people from the hurricane area into Rhode Island. Of those 500 people we are not sure how many will be middle school students. Can you offer advice or a plan of action on how we can make their transition into our school community a positive experience. Thank you.

Stephen Brock:
From our reporting so far, we are seeing districts take a number of steps to ease the transition of students into new schools. They include making available counselors, school supplies, waiving requirements for transcripts, proof of age, and other standard admissions practices. In general, states and districts are relaxing the paperwork and bureaucracy as much as possible, and helping with basic needs. Of note are recent announcements coming out of Louisiana suggesting that schools in and around New Orleans may not open at all this school year, so your planning should consider long-term implications. You also might want to network with schools/districts where evacuees have enrolled, particularly in Houston or other Texas districts. Finally, the U.S. Department of Education has started a Katrina-related Web site that help you network. It is

Question from Amy Holm, Science Teacher/Student Council Advisor, McKinley Middle School Kenosha, WI:
How can the students in my school help make the transistions easier for the kids that have been displaced and are going to differnet schools. Are there any supplies that can be collected and where should they be shipped?

Robert Johnston:
U.S. Department of Education’s new link:

National Center for Homeless Education

Question from Shelley Rescober, student, NYU:
With some of Hurricane Katrina’s displaced students attending Texas schools, can Texas expect to receive extra funding to accomodate this influx? Will the funds of school districts affected by Katrina follow their students?

Robert Johnston:
Congress is floating an idea to provide $2,500 per student to districts that enroll students whose families evacuated from Katrina-hit areas. Another state plan in Texas would guarantee that receiving districts get the equivalent in per-pupil state aid that a district would receive for any student. Less certain is how local districts will generate local revenue to cover added costs, or whether or whether, for example, Louisiana aid will follow a student to Texas.

Question from Lisa S. Johnson, Researcher, New Teacher Center:
I work for a non-profit organization which is committed to helping underserved student populations through the training and mentoring of new teachers. What can our organization do to help during this crisis?

Stephen Brock:
Lisa; Perhaps most importantly I recommend training your teachers to respond to crisis and how to deal with it. You might consider contacting school psychologists in your area to see if any of them have the skills that could help you with this training. Also, has a variety of hurricane related handouts that could be used to faciliate discussions among new teachers. Steve

Question from Shayla Jackson, Editor, No Child Left Behind Alert & IDEA Compliance Alert for Eli Research, Inc.:
If districts throughout the country accept teachers displaced by Hurrican Katrina, how will teacher-quality requirements weigh in? Will highly-qualified rules play a factor in selection and subsequent placement of teachers?

Robert Johnston:
States can indivually set policies for the teachers they hire or do not hire, and can just as easily waive them in emergencies. Some already have reciprocity with certain states, while others do not.

But under federal law, all teachers of core academic subjects are supposed to be highly qualified by the end of this school year. So, there is some wiggle room for a few months. In the meantime, Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings has said the department will consider waivers of federal No Child Left Behind mandates on a case-by-case basis. The details of those waivers have not been set.

Question from Maureen Cunniff, ELA Assessment Specialist, Utah State Office of Education:
What can educators do to help long distance?

Stephen Brock:
Maureen; 1. Contact the ARC and ask what you (and the students in your classrooms) can do to help. This can be a “teachable moment” duirng which you have your students’ attention. It is a great time to teach them about how to help others and how to be a citizen when disasters occur. 2. Also, this is a great time to revisit your own local school crisis plans and teams. Now is one of those moments where no one questions the importance of school crisis preparedness. Steve

Question from Janet Ginsburg, consultant:

A few years ago, I was invited to a meeting of top disaster workers -- 300 experts in eveything from refugee settlements to water, energy, agricutulture, telemedicine, communications, logistics, etc. Re Education, there was discussion about a UNICEF project called “School in a Box,” to set up field school in refugee camps quickly:

Would this be a useful template disater-displaced kids in shelters? I was thinking this might work particularly well for younger kids, Pre-K - 2. It would allow them to stay close to their parents and, especially for the really young ones, work on those all-important school readiness skills.

I know a lot of publishers and school supply companies have been donating goods, but there seems to be a lack of central planning. A School in a Box-type initiative, perhaps organized through the Red Cross, but supervised by groups such as NAEYC, HeadStart, etc,, would provide much needed focus.

Does anyone know whether any initiatives like this are already underway?

If anybody needs any help brainstorming this, I would love to help.

Robert Johnston:
Great idea. Not sure if such an initiative is under way, though it appears that most of the displaced students will be placed in regular classrooms. As for supplies, you might want to contact: U.S. Dept. of Eduation at or National Center for Homeless Education at

Question from Roger Nozaki, GE Foundation:
What are the specific types of needs that the schools will be providing that the state and federal gov’ts will NOT be able to support financially? In other words, what are the specific needs that school districts will only be able to provide if outside sources of financial support are found?

Robert Johnston:
Another good question. Based on our reporting so far, there is likely a long-term and a short-term answer.

Most immediately, local districts are taking in students as the come and doing their best to provide all the necessary services and worrying about costs later. They seem to be doing this by relying on existing space, employees, as well volunteers and private contributions to meet immediate needs (which includes hiring new teachers). Over time, the costs to the districts will grow and become more evident. How those costs are dealt with are unfolding, and likely will involve a mix of federal money (one plan in Congress would provide receiving districts with $2,500 per student that enrolls as a result of Katrina). Other state government officials are talking about kicking in the equivalent state per-pupil aid that any student would receive.

Question from Eric Mar, President, San Francisco Board of Education:
Our school district is expecting the arrival of 400-500 hurricane survivors. What examples do you have of model school programs that have temporarily addressed the psychological, social and educational needs of students displaced by natural disasters.

Stephen Brock:
Eric; A very important question. In addition to the information on this topic that I’ve already posted below find a link to a book chapter that I hope will also be helpful Steve

Question from Regis Rothrauff, Assistant Director, School Readiness Group:
I noticed that the Dallas School District is allowing parents of displaced children the opportunity to ride the school bus with their kids. It was explained that this affords the parents comfort in getting to see the school where their children will be attending. It also helps to solve the logistics of gathering parental / student information.

How important is it to “treat” the children in the context of treating the whole family?

Stephen Brock:
Regis; I think that this is a great idea (espeically given that displaced families might not otherwise have the ability to see their child’s new school). In the context of a disaster, especially when working with young children, working with the family is essential. As I mentioned in a previous post, caregiver reactions/coping is a key determinant of a child’s traumatic stress reactions. Kids from families wherein the caregivers are not coping well, tend to have more severe traumatic stress reactions (the opposite is also true). Most children recover from these experiences when they have families that are able to support them. Thus, it is crtical to work with parents and families Steve

Question from Peter Bayer, Principal, Pembroke Pines Charter High School:
Is there a way for schools to offer employment to out of work teachers while they are displaced from their home school?

Robert Johnston:
Might be a good posting on the Department of Education’s Web site that seems to pair needs with resources: www.ed.gove/Katrina also has a site for those who want to offer free housing (Jobs as well?) to hurricane victims. You can note that you want to make and offer to a teacher or school support staff member. The site is

The American Federation of Teachers ( and National Education Association ( have outreach programs for educator assistance.

Question from Carrie Bartlett, Teacher, Pass Christian High School:
Our school district and others are considering cancelling ALL athletics for the year. This has many of our senior athletes in a panic. Any suggestions on how to convince the bureaucracy that normalcy is the best thing for these kids??

Stephen Brock:
Carrie; If it is at all possible, would would avoid doing this. You are right... Once physical safety has been assured, return to as normal as possible an environment is key to recovery. It provides a concrete example of the fact that post disaster not everything has changed and that recovery is possible. Unless there are safety reasons, I would not cancel athletics Steve

Question from Veronica Terriquez:
What is the estimated number of students displaced by Katrina?

Robert Johnston:
We estimate that between Louisiana and Mississippi, an estimated 211,000 students have been displaced as a result of Hurricane Katrina, that includes 155,000 public school students and as many as 56,000 students from Roman Catholic and independent private schools.

Question from Janet Glaes, Elementary School Counselor, Vicksburg Community Schools, Vicksburg, Mi, Tobey Elementary School:
Our students who have no direct connection to the crisis are still effected by it due to the media coverage. Can you speak to the importance of teachers, counselors and other school personnel assisting all of our students to process their feelings about this disaster and the best ways of doing so?

Stephen Brock:
Janet; Great question! First, I would recommend that you restrict the viewing of such media coverage. Among groups without other risk factors, there is an association between amount to disaster related TV viewing and traumatic stress reactions (with more viewing = more stress reactions). Second, while the numbers will be small, there will be some students who are not living in the disaster area, who will be affected. The may need some counseling support. Generally, I would suggest that school in unaffected areas give students the chance to talk about the disaster and that as indicated schools enlist students in recovery efforts (e.g., help with ARC fund raising) Steve

Question from Rosemary Miller, Ph.D. Adjunct USC-Beaufort:
Is there a role for retired teachers? I am just retired from the local school district as an administrator and teacher and after early December, could be available to help in some capacity.

Robert Johnston:
If you live in or near a district/school that is taking in students who have evacuated from hurricane-damaged areas, there is a good chance that the district could use your help. You should probably check there first.

Question from John Yates, Special Education Coordinator, Fargo Schools:
Will schools that are accepting displaced students be expected to comply with the NCLB requirements? What, if any, considerations will be made for those groups?

Robert Johnston:
This question comes up a lot.

Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings is on the record saying that NCLB flexibility/waivers will be provided on a case-by-case basis. Details on those policies, however, have not been settled.

Question from Annie Laurie Armstrong, CEO, Business Government Community Connections:
What provisions are underway to ensure that the transcipts and other student information will be made available to the new schools children will attend? Will there be any special provisions for tutoring or other support for the children and adults in families?

Robert Johnston:
This is a real challenge. Districts hit by the hurricane are finding records in various conditions, from untouched to destroyed or missing--including payroll data, which is one of the districts’ priorities right now.

Districts/states receiving evacuees are waiving transcript requirements in order to enroll students as quicly and as smoothly as possible, though the questions around credits, graduation requirements, etc., will certainly increase with time.

Question from Claire Barnett, Coordiantor, National Coalition for Healthier Schools:
Post 9/11 in NYC, we saw many counseling services, but NO environmental health assessments of students whose symptoms were in fact triggered by pollutants in schools and neighborhoods (headaches, rashes, pain, nausea, fatigue). How will you assess enviro exposures’ contributions to symptoms prior to counseling students for PTSD in reoccupied but polluted schools? Note- NIOSH study of teachers post 9/11 found new onset diseases due to polluted schools.

Stephen Brock:
Claire; I don’t have an answer for you, but your question points to the importance of schools having what I refer to as “comprehensive school crisis teams” that include school nurses. Steve

Question from Diane Johnson, Ed.D.:
Would it be possible to accommodate some of these students via virtual schools (elementary, high school, as well as university students)? It could provide them with a community of learners who could relate somewhat to each other’s experiences and perhaps lessen their isolation.

Robert Johnston:
Providers of online schools are meeting this week to discuss options and form plans for virtual schools to serve victims of Hurricane Katrina. According to our reporters, several providers are lining up to provide services.

Question from Felicia Brown, Graduate Student, North Carolina State University:
How will schools meet the learning needs of exceptional children evacuated after Hurricane Katrina if they have no record of their individual educational plans?

Stephen Brock:
Felicia; I’ve been waiting for this question. It is a good one.

I’ve consulted with officals in my home state (CA) about this and what I’ve been told is that we would essentially treat these students like any other transfer student. In CA this means that as soon as we become aware of a student with special needs we immediately provide these services to the best of our ability. After 30 days we meet and develop our own local IEP. Of course the challenge here is that we may not have IEP records from the prior school. What I suggest doing in this case is to work with parents (and school officials from the sending district if they are available) to try to figure out what the placement was. If records are gone, then we will need to immediately begin the process of re-evaluating the students to develop the new local IEP. But I would not recommend delaying services until records are available. For the student displaced by Katrina, this could make a bad situation worse.

Also, it will be important to recognize that these special needs students are more vulnerable to traumatic stress than are other students (in particular those with an ED classification). Thus, as important as figuring out IEPs and placements is the need to assess emotional status and to provide the needed mental health assistance. Steve

Question from Patricia Julianelle, counselor, Bell High School:
My school district office and state office have sent out memos informing us that children displaced by the hurricane are legally entitled to enroll immediately under the federal McKinney-Vento Act. It seems like a great tool for us. Can you tell me where I can find more information about this law?

Robert Johnston:
The McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act is a federal law passed to ensure that the educacion rights of children who experience homelessness are met. There are some questions as to how the law will be applied with respect to hurricane victims and the school districts that enroll these students.

The U.S. Department of Education has posted a reminder of the law on its Web site,

The National Law Center for Homeless and Poverty also has information:

Question from Jody Berman:
We have elementary and middle school textbooks that we can donate now and then more next fall. is there anyway to do this (now or in the future)?

Robert Johnston:
I’d suggest you start locally by looking for schools/districts receiving students. If there are no takers, here are a couple of sites that are pairing up resoucres with needs:

Question from Lynn Heemstra, Administrator, Grand Rapids Public Schools:
What specific teaching exercises have proven to be most helpful for victims that help them tell their story and focus on their learning?

Stephen Brock:
Lynn; I don’t know of any one exercise (or exercises) that are most helpful. A lot depends upon individual needs and circumstances (e.g., some students may not be willing or able to tell their stories and should not be forced to do so). Go to for a collection of Hurricane Katrina resources that may help guide these teaching exercises. Steve

Question from Dr RD Liles, Retired Special Ed. Director:
What would it take to ensure that educators (special/regular, public / private school/IHE’s, etc.) be included on federal task forces that will be analyzing the educational impact of Hurrican Katrina? Or could we developed our own task force/position paper?

Stephen Brock:
RD; The simple answer to your question is “connections.” Indivdiuals interested in such work need to make themselves know to the state and federal officials (as well as national associations) that will likley be doing this work Steve

Question from Joyce Jacobs, Kinder Teacher, Stribling Elementary:
Our local National Writing Project, the Bluebonnet Writing Project from North Central Texas, is preparing kits for educators who will be welcoming these learners displaced by Hurricane Katrina. We are looking at all age ranges, but I specifically am working on writing and art activities that will focus on their questions and feelings and focusing around literature. Are there any books in particular that you would suggest? Our group is meeting Saturday (9/10) to create and get ready to disseminate the information. Any advice you could suggest would be so welcome. We want to do this the right way for all concerned.

Thank you so much,

Joyce Jacobs

Stephen Brock:
Joyce; Check out the following link, it may give you what you need:


Question from Haniff Toussaint:
How can academic institutions from distant states help with the educational needs of the Katrina Victims? What “specific” educational resources do the Katrina victims need in order to continue in their learning process, i.e. reading materials, writing materials, technological materials, e-learning resources?

Stephen Brock:
Haniff; One Katrina specific resource would be technology that allow displayed students to reconnect with their former teachers and classmates. Webcams, the internet, etc. would be helpful for displayed students (I know that they have done this in Israel for students who could not get to their school during times of war. It was reported to be very helpful). Steve

Question from Renee Hill, Math Specialist, California:
Several of our teachers have taken in family members displaced by Katrina. What assistance is available to them?

Stephen Brock:
Renee; I would refer them to ARC and/or FEMA (as well as local state disaster agencies) Steve

Question from Bob Frangione, Graduate Student:
Given the displacement of so many school-aged children, how will schools absorb them without school or health records? What will the likely effects be on high school seniors that should graduate and how will they verify their status?

Stephen Brock:
Bob; Another good question... Receiving schools may need to begin the process of re-creating these records. This will involve a lot of extra work for the receiving school and is perhaps one of many hidden costs of this disaster. As for HS graduation, this is an issue that we have a few months to resolve, and I suspect that it will involve collaboration with officials from the disaster area. However, right now we need to get these kids back into school and back to something that looks like a normal routine. We can worry about graduation a few months from now. Steve

Question from Lisa Ross, Federal Policy Director, Pre-K Now:
Pre-Kindergarten aged children must be particularly affected by the loss of their home, personal belongings, loss of routine and structure, and general security that provides them the environment needed to grow, explore their world, and try new things. This age-group is also pretty labor-intensive and demanding by nature for their parents, adding extra stress as parents struggle to try to put their life back together. Do you know what is being done or planned by federal, state and local governments to help provide quality child-care for these children so that they can plan and handle housing and financial arrangements, find work, go off to work, etc? Also, many of these children are in need of, and many may have been receiving, a high quality pre-kindergatren education to prepare them to start school. Are you aware of anything being done or planned to place these displaced children in pre-k classes to help them avoid facing further hardship in their very young lives?

Stephen Brock:
Lisa; You are right younger children tend to be more vulnerable. However, this group is more likely to be affected by the event if their caregivers are not coping well (whereas older children are more likely to be effected by the event itself). To answer your question... As of this moment I am not aware of any state or federal efforts to provide child care specifically for diplaced children (it may exist, I’ve just not heard about it). I anticipate most state preschool programs will be open to continuing to provide these services to displaced students and agree that such ongoing service is critical Steve

Question from Meaghan Ellis, student, Montana State University:
How will the schools establish emotional stability so that the students will be able to learn? or How ready are the students to return to the classroom and retain the subject content?

Stephen Brock:
Meaghan; Great question! Refer to for a collection of resources that should help to address your question. Steve

Question from :
Will the children entering other states be required to take the state in which they reside state’s test? If the new state’s scores fall could these children be blamed?

Robert Johnston:
It’s a pragmatic question that a lot of people are asking. The short answer is that no one knows right now how testing will play out. Federal officials are talking about waivers from NCLB-related testing and accountability requirements. State-level accountability questions are sure to unfold as well. But, for now, one principal in the storm-ravaged area of Mississippi seemed to sum up the on-the-ground thinking, saying that there are too many pressing issues right now to think about test scores.

Question from Nadja Thelen, student at the University of Education, Germany:
When are all the students who are effected by the storm expected to go to school again? Will they be going to schools in those cities where the families were brought to or do the parents have the right to not send their children to any school until they have settled?

Robert Johnston:
Many of the 211,000 displaced students are already going to school in schools in neighborning states or thousands of miles away. School districts across the country have been quick to welcome displaced students.

The latest estimates out of Louisiana is that schools in the areas hardes hit by the hurricane might not open at all this school year, which in the United States ends in June of 2006 in most states.

Families have the right under federal law to enroll their students in the communities where they settle.

Question from Wendy Parker, School Counselor, St. Joseph’s School:
Do you have suggestions on how teachers can integrate relocated students into our school. We have a second grader from New Orleans joining our class today. What information should we share with the class about the new child and the situation he came from in Louisiana?

Stephen Brock:
Wendy; You probably already got the answer to this question from my prior posts, but just in case you didn’t... Refer to for specific suggestions. Steve

Question from Anita Bhatty, Educator, Balboa Academy, Panama:
We are an American International school based in Panama. Our student body is fundraising to help collect money for the hurricane afeected people. Is there any way we can help?

Robert Johnston:
U.S. Department of Education

National Center for Homeless Education

Question from Joelle Torreele, French Teacher, West Springfield High School:
WSHS students want to help others by sending school supplies to schools who are enrolling children who have left the disaster area. Who can we contact? Is there a school jurisdiction or agency who could can handle such a donation?

Robert Johnston:
U.S. Department of Education:

National Center for Homeless Education:

Question from Audrey Hight, Teacher, Grass Valley Charter School:
Students at our K-8 school are working to send funds to help. Is it supportive for students to send cards, letters, pictures to Katrina victims? Is there an organization that can distribute these kind of good wishes?

Stephen Brock:
Audrey; Again, I’m thinking the ARC would be one possibility (especially for funds). But you might also consider trying to make contact with a local school district that is receiving displaced students (especially for direction on sending cards,letters,etc.) Steve

Question from Ms. Sam Grabelle, Education Consultant:
I am wondering if it is possible to know now what kind of support will be needed by the schools, districts, students, etc. in the coming months/years and who or what organizations will be involved in this process (or how to find out once it is worked out). I work as an independent Education Consultant (and social worker) and am very interested in the opportunities available for those in the education field who have the flexibility as I do to help out either virtually or in person. I am asking about both volunteer and paid opportunities to be of service to the communities affected.

Stephen Brock:
Sam; I would check with the ARC,, FEMA, and other state and local agencies for this information. Right now I don’t have one resource to refer you to Steve

Question from Jennifer Lamkins, Assistant Professor, CSU:
With the displacement and dispersion of students from various locales, what do you consider the value/potential contribution of virtual schools in particular and technology in general in supporting the immediate and long-term educational and emotional needs of these students?

Stephen Brock:
Jennifer; Virtual school’s can be very helpful in these situations. As I just mentioned in an earlier post, they can help students to reconnect with teachers and classmates (and in doing so help displaced students to recover) Steve

Question from Jessica Siegel, teacher, Abraham Lincoln HS, Brooklyn, NY:
Are there education organizations which are rrying to link up schools that want to 1) raise money for people displaced by Katrina and 2) perhaps want to write to other students say in the Houston Astrodom or in Baton Rouge where there are large congregations of young people who would like to get mail?

Stephen Brock:
Jessica; I don’t know for sure. But I would contact the ARC. I’ll bet they could direct you. Steve

Question from Barbara Lieb, Ph.D. George Mason University:
How can teachers cope with grief of those students entering their classes from New Orleans and the fears of others whom they teach?

Stephen Brock:
Barbara; We have talked about this already, but below are some of the suggestions we came up with in preparing and handout titled:"Responding to Hurricane Katrina: Helping Children Cope” (available: Steve

Guidance for Parents and Caregivers Remain calm and reassuring. Children take their cues from adults, especially young children. Acknowledge the loss or destruction, but emphasize the community and nation’s efforts to cleanup and rebuild. To the extent it is possible and honest to do so, assure them that family and friends will take care of them and keep them safe.

Acknowledge and normalize their feelings. Allow children to discuss their feelings and concerns, and address any questions they may have regarding the event. Listen and empathize. An empathetic listener is very important. Let them know that their reactions are normal and expected.

Promote positive coping and problem-solving skills. Activities should teach children how to apply problem-solving skills to hurricane-related stressors. Encourage children to develop realistic and positive methods of coping that increase their ability to manage their anxiety and to identify which strategies fit with each situation.

Emphasize children’s resiliency. Focus on their competencies. Help children identify and reinforce what they have done in the past that helped them cope when they were frightened or upset. Bring their attention to other communities that have experienced hurricanes and recovered.

Strengthen children’s friendship and peer support. Children with strong emotional support from others are better able to cope with adversity. Children’s relationships with peers can provide suggestions for how to cope and can help decrease isolation. For many children in this situation, friendships may be disrupted because of family relocations. In some cases, parents may be less available to provide support to their children because of their own distress and feelings of being overwhelmed. Activities such as asking children to work cooperatively in small groups can help children strengthen supportive relationships with their peers.

Connect with support systems in the community. Most communities will have emergency services in place for some time. Family, friends, and neighbors can be sources of support if they are in proximity and coping themselves. Faith communities and youth service organizations can provide a sense of connection for children and families. Similarly, local schools that can reopen are often a critical resource as well, offering a safe, familiar, and centralized location for gatherings, information and referrals to necessary services. The school will also be important in communities taking in displaced families left homeless by Hurricane Katrina.

Monitor television and Internet viewing: While it will be important for older children and adolescents to have some access to news reports and hurricane updates, it is recommended that they not be allowed to engage in extensive (unlimited and uninterrupted) media coverage of disaster related events. Young children should not watch hurricane images or listen to the news.

Encourage children to talk about hurricane-related events. Children need an opportunity to discuss their experiences in a safe, accepting environment. Provide activities that enable children to discuss their experiences. This may include a range of methods (both verbal and nonverbal) and incorporate varying projects (e.g., drawing, stories, audio and video recording). It is always appropriate to seek the help of a mental health professional if you need help with ideas or managing the conversation.

Engage children in activities they enjoy. Participating in fun activities, such as reading, games, sports, and arts and crafts can help distract children from the situation and foster a sense of security. This is particularly important for displaced children and those living in shelters for whom a return to their “normal” is unlikely in the near future.

Be prepared to discuss difficult questions. Children are likely to ask challenging questions such as how God could let such a horrible disaster happen, why grownups can’t provide more help sooner, if life will ever be the same, or why such lawlessness occurred in the aftermath. Think about your feelings or beliefs on these issues. Be honest but try to include a positive aspect to your answers. Acknowledging that you don’t know the answer to all their questions is okay. Explain that looting and violence is inexcusable but that people who are frightened and without help sometimes get desperate and do things they would not normally do. Emphasize that you and other adults are doing everything possible to keep them safe.

Contact your school. Let school officials know where your family is, how to get in touch with you if possible, and your situation (lost home, a death in the family, relocating, etc.). In time, even in the most impacted areas, school personnel will be working to connect with families and provide information. Check the school website for resources and updates on decisions about plans for re-opening or relocating students. Important to a child’s recovery form hurricane related distress will be the extent to which he or she is able to return to as normal a school routine as possible. Finding a way to get a dislocated child back into some sort of school environment will help to demonstrate that not everything has changed and that a return to “normalcy” is possible.

Take care of your own needs. Take time for yourself and try to deal with your own reactions to the situation as fully as possible. You will be better able to help your children if you are coping well. If you are anxious or upset, your children are more likely to feel the same way. Talk to other adults such as family, friends, faith leaders, or counselors. It is important not to dwell on your fears or anxiety by yourself. Sharing feelings with others often makes people feel more connected and secure. Take care of your physical health. Make time, however small, to do things you enjoy. Avoid using drugs or alcohol to feel better.

Question from Mary MacDonald, education reporter, Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Can you describe some of the behaviors that teachers and parents might expect in the displaced students who are now entering public schools? And what can be done to help the children adjust? I get the sense from my interviews in Atlanta that many parents/families are still in shock about their losses.

Stephen Brock:
Mary; Check out the following two links: Steve

Question from Mike Guth, Social Studies Teacher, Heritage Hills Middle School-IN:
Do students who have been displaces have permanent records on file anywhere safe? If yes, how can schools get a hold of these records?

Robert Johnston:
The Louisiana Department of Education has records and transcripts for all of its public school students, and is sending this data to all operating school districts. Alabama is using a data-collection program to track its students affected by Katrina and Mississippi is working with school districts to maintain or recover their student data. Districts needing student records should contact their state department of education.

Question from Regis Rothrauff, Assistant Director, School Readiness Group:
We continue to highlight the trauma of uprooting. Surely, an event of this magnitude can have a positive lasting impact upon young children. Can you please give a few examples – and, if so, how can we, as educators, facilitate and reinforce lasting positive schemas?

Stephen Brock:
Regis; To the extent that children and families are able to successfully cope with this event, they will develop new problem solving strategies that may help them get through future life challenges. Children might emerge from this event viewing themselves as strong and capable problem solvers who can survive just about anything (if we offer them the appropriate supports) Also, we are all learning about the importance of disaster preparedness - which should serve us well the next time we are faced with a disaster of this type. Steve

Question from Mary Campbell, Ed Program Specialist, U.S. Department of Education:
What are practical suggestions for ways that teachers and volunteers in the schools can integrate displaced children into the school? Should we encourage them to talk about their experiences in class, if they are comfortable, or only one on one? What are ways to help ease their anxieties?

Stephen Brock:
I think I addressed this question earlier. Again I would add that information from the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) will be helpful in addressing this question.

Here’s the link:

Here’s some of the most relevant comments for this handout:

Suggestions to Facilitate Integrating Displaced Students Meet with your crisis team. Convene your school crisis team and discuss how you can support students. Primary goals will be to re-establish natural support systems and as normal a school environment as possible. You will need to establish a process for integrating students and determining their personal situation, potential risks, and mental health needs. If at all possible, contact the students’ home school administrators to obtain any necessary background information, records, IEPs, etc. If your school does not have a crisis team then it is advisable to develop a team to coordinate efforts to support relocated students and their families.

Coordinate with community services. Incoming families will need help finding housing, jobs, healthcare providers, transportation, babysitters and other “normal” life services. Working with government agencies such as FEMA and private organizations such as the American Red Cross, the school can serve as a clearinghouse for this information. Identify community-based mental health providers that can work with your school mental health professionals and crisis team.

Meet with staff. Provide all staff with information on the process for integrating students, possible mental and physical health and logistical issues of relocated students and their families, suggestions for helping students cope, curriculum and teaching issues, and community and school-based resources. Make crisis team members available to support teachers and other staff. Allow time for meetings to plan and discuss issues.

Assign displaced students to schools together. To the extent possible, try to match displaced students with other hurricane survivors and/or displaced staff members to give them a sense of connection. Establishing support groups between schools within the community can also help students feel less disoriented and alone in their recovery process. Internet communications between relocated students and teachers can provide reassurance that dispersed members of there are safe. This knowledge can help to further reinforce the belief that recovery is possible

Establish a “Welcome Taskforce.” This should include mental health personnel, teachers, students, and staff who can help create welcome materials, hold fundraisers, be identified as people to go to for questions, and organize events and welcome activities to help incoming families feel comfortable and get to know the community. Current students are particularly important in this activity. Take into account any cultural or language barriers of incoming students.

Orient the entire community to the process and needs of displaced students. Provide current students and families with information on the need to welcome and extend a helping hand to the students and families who will be coming to the school. Information should include who to contact to get involved, list of activities, and mental health information

Establish a mentoring program. Assign current students to an incoming student to help them acclimate to their new environment. Student mentors should have a similar schedule to their new student. Student mentors might provide homework help, introduce the students to potential friends and include the new student in after school activities. A staff member should oversee the student mentors and be available to help with any difficult issues. Depending on the degree of trauma of the incoming students, mentors may need time for group discussions to talk through some of potential issues raised. Make clear to student mentors that they should seek adult help if the student they are mentoring exhibits any signs of distress. A mentoring program can also match entire families.

Communicate with families. Meet with parents and students personally. Be sure they have all relevant information regarding school procedures and rules, names, contact and function information of key staff, and community resources. Assign them a lead staff member as their primary point of contact in addition to the child’s teacher. Encourage them to share any relevant information about their child’s emotional state or potential risk factors (loss of a family member).

Monitor relocated students. School crisis team members should be assigned to incoming students and meet with them regularly. Keep parents or other caregivers informed. Coordinate with teachers. Tell students where and who they can go to when they feel distressed. Reassure them that school staff members are there to help and/or find help.

Identify students’ special needs. Many relocating students may have special needs and/or have IEPs. Obtaining this information from the home school is ideal but students may need to be assessed as well. Even students without formal IEPs may have individual learning needs. School psychologists should work with general and special education staff to determine needs and implement supports. Understand that school records, psychological evaluations or IEP’s from the student’s previous school may not be available. Initially, it may be necessary to place students based upon the parent’s report while the student is awaiting an evaluation.

Encourage teachers to maintain the routine and structure. Efforts should be taken to alter workload expectations for the incoming students and avoid the introduction of too much new material during the transitional school reentry period. Teachers should:

  • Meet and greet students as they enter the classroom.
  • Remain calm and reassuring.
  • Acknowledge and normalize feelings/reactions.
  • Provide opportunities for children to share their concerns, but don’t force discussion.
  • Promote and praise positive coping and problem solving skills.
  • Involve children in activities that permit them to make choices and re-establish some control over their environment.
  • Involve students in recovery-oriented activities and projects.
  • Consider the developmental stage and experiences of each child and tailor experiences of each child to their developmental needs and capacities.
  • Incorporate disaster-related information into the curriculum, as appropriate.
  • Provide collaborative activities that strengthen students’ friendships and support.
  • Do not require incoming students to complete homework as many of the students may not even have homes.
  • Provide time for students to express their feelings. Depending on the situation, class discussion may or may not be appropriate.
  • Incoming students may prefer not to discuss the issues or their situation and may be distressed by such class discussions. Students might meet with the school psychologist or other mental health professional for an individual or small group crisis intervention.

    Other activities include creative writing, arts and crafts, music and theater. Efforts should encourage students to develop effective means of coping, discover that classmates share similar questions, and develop peer support networks. Teachers should not be expected to conduct discussions if students are severely impacted or if they themselves feel unable to effectively talk about the issues.

    Engage students in activities they enjoy. It is neither possible nor healthy for students to focus all of their attention and energy on understanding and coping with the hurricane. All hurricane survivors will need a break for such efforts. Participating in fun activities, such as recreational reading, games, sports, and arts and crafts can help distract children from the situation and foster a sense of security. This is particularly important for displaced students and those living in shelters for whom a return to a “normal” routine is unlikely in the near future

    Promote positive coping and problem-solving skills. Activities should teach students how to apply problem-solving skills to hurricane-related stressors. Encourage students to develop realistic and positive methods of coping that increase their ability to manage their anxiety and to identify which strategies fit best with each situation.

    Emphasize students’ resiliency. Focus on student’s competencies. Help children identify what they have done in the past that helped them cope when they were frightened or upset. Bring their attention to other communities that have experienced hurricanes and recovered.

    Identify children and youth who are at high risk and plan interventions. Risk factors are outlined in the above section on children’s reactions. Interventions may include parent education, classroom discussions, individual counseling, or small group counseling. Depending on the number of students affected in the school, form discussion groups. By maintaining close contact with teachers and parents, the school crisis response team can help determine which students need counseling services. A mechanism also needs to be in place for self-referral and parent-referral of students.

    Support the mental health needs of staff. Depending on the location of the school (e.g., impacted by Hurricane Katrina) or the number of displaced students being served, school staff may need the opportunity to discuss their feelings and experiences. It is essential that teachers and staff be given permission to take care of themselves to ensure that they will be able to help their students. Providing crisis intervention is emotionally draining and caregivers will need an opportunity to process their crisis response. This could include teachers and other school staff if they have been serving as crisis caregivers for students.

    Ensure culturally appropriate services. It is essential that intervention efforts are sensitive to the cultural, religious and linguistic realities of the school population. Whenever possible, disaster mental health support services should be delivered by professionals who reflect the diverse characteristics shared by a community. Consider language and ethnic barriers that may impede the acceptance and benefit of needed services. Other factors germane to the provision of appropriate support services include race, age, gender, refugee/immigrant status, income, possible disability, and size of the community.

  • Question from J Charles, Teacher Vickery Elem ,:
    We currently have 11 students enrolled that are evacuees from hurricaine Katrina. How best can we help them to adjust to their new situation. How careful do the teachers need to be not “remeind them of the trauma”?

    Stephen Brock:

    The links I’ve previously posted should be helpful

    Regarding not reminding them of the trauma...

    It is not so much that you don’t want to remind them (you do want to give them the opportunity to talk about the trauma) as it is not forcing them to confront their experiences before they are ready.

    Let’ the children be your guide. If they want to talk be there for them. Let them know that if they have any questions and/or want to talk about their experiences you are ready, willing and able to do so. If they don’t want to, don’t force it.

    Keep in mind that an environment that is viewed as denying the reality of a disaster is not healthy.


    Question from Judy Willgren, Comprehensive Systems Grant, Texas Health and Human Services Commission:
    How can Pre K teachers identify red flags for emotional concerns for their 4 and 5 year old children. How can elementary school counselors assist Pre K teachers and their children when concerns arise.

    Stephen Brock:
    Judy; See Steve

    Question from Laura Walker Jeffries, Legislative Advocate, Association of California School Administrators:
    California is accepting students impacted by Katrina. Can we expect any financial resources from the federal government to assist in our additional costs of educating these students, including potential special education. And, will there be any waivers from NCLB as a result of receipt of these students?

    Robert Johnston:
    Each of these questions is under debate. President Bush has met with Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings to talk about providing fiscal relief to districts that take in displaced students.

    Other proposals include providing $2,500 to districts for each student they take in as a result of Hurricane Katrina.

    Waivers are under discussion by federal officials, though no details have been announced.

    Question from Angela P. Enlow, Program Coor., GEAR UP:
    For the schools that will be taking in hurricane victims, how shoud the integration be handled? Is there a model to go by?

    Thanks, Angie Enlow

    Stephen Brock:
    Angela; See Steve

    Question from Jeanette Kaufmann, supervising counselor, Charles County Public Schools (La Plata, MD):
    We have programs in place to assist new students transition. These include “getting to know you” lunches, pairing new students with a buddy, providing welcome packets, etc. Are there ways we should “tweak” these activities or are there additional activities needed to specifically meet the needs of students displaced by the hurricane?

    Stephen Brock:
    Jeanette; See Steve

    Question from Lorretta Faye Rucker, teacher, Scenic Hills Elementary:
    Will displaced educators have to show license for verification?

    Robert Johnston:
    Our reporter covering this issue says that she has found that displaced educators will not be expected to have their licenses in hand when they apply for a job in another area. The hiring district, however, will contact state officials in the teacher’s home state to verify his/her licensure.

    Question from Anthony V. Green, Sr., Principal, M.A.L.E. Academy:
    As a doctoral candidate for the degree of Curriculum and Instruction in the College of Education at Texas Southern University, I am responding to the disaster with admirable concern and care by seeking solutions to the various challenges (educational, socioeconomics, pyschological, emotional, etc.)that face Katrina’s victims. I am a native of Houston,TX and have taught in the public school system for several years. As a curriculm specialist, designer, planner, and evaluator, I am seeking programs and grants that are available or will be available to will assist our male social skills curriculum as we continue our relief efforts in Katrina’s Aftermath. My questions are what websites can I visit, what educational grants are available, and whom should I collaborate with for funding to enhance my efforts? As educators, I maintain that we must prioritize, continue to serve ALL children, and develop character building and social skills programs for ALL students across the board, particularly Katrina’s victims. Thank you for your time and I hope my question is clear, concise, and complete. I look forward to your response!

    Stephen Brock:
    Anthony; I would check,, and first. I’m sure there are others, but those are the ones that immediately come to mind. You might also consider looking at private foundations who have previously funded any of your efforts (these funding sources are often quicker in providing $).

    Question from Lakita Edwards, Education Specialist, National Park Service:
    What are some ways that the local non-formal learning institutions (e.g.,parks, museums, service organizations) can help school systems get back to normalcy?

    Robert Johnston:
    Good question.

    The schools in the hardest-hit area might not be open for the remainder of the school year, so it’s hard to know what their needs are going to be and how to help in the coming months, though contacting relief efforts in those areas at some point could prove helpful. School districts taking on displaced students have immediate needs as well.

    The following resources might be a good start: U.S. Department of Education:

    National Center for Homeless Education:

    Question from Maria Stachura, unemployed, certified pre-k-6:
    Where can retired or unemployed teachers help the victims of Katrina? Are there any web sites or people we can contact if education knowledge is needed? I am currently an unemployed teacher with three years of experience teaching preschool and for the last year was head teacher/director of a program. I would like to volunteer but I don’t know where I should start. I want to put my talents to use. Thank you~

    Robert Johnston:
    I’m not sure where you are from, but you might want to start with districts/schools near you that are receiving displaced students.

    Question from Kathleen Whitley, Financial Officer, Garden City, Kansas Public School System:
    We currently have teaching positions open. Is there a way to contact teachers who have lost their jobs because of Katrina and might be interested in relocating for one year?

    Robert Johnston:
    The U.S. Department of Education has a Web site that is pairing resources with needs. It is:

    The American Federation of Teachers ( and National Education Association ( might also have a way for you to advertise your positions.

    Question from Cindy Dixon, Education Consultant, PLATO Learning, Inc.:
    My question concerns the accuracy of record keeping as it pertains to credits for graduation and for scholarship application. 1. How can a school system accurately place students in appropriate grades or in appropriate classes without records? 2. As a result of the storm, some schools will not open until October or later causing delayed graduation dates which could affect who will receive scholarship dollars. How are state colleges addressing this problem?

    Stephen Brock:
    Cindy; 1. Talk to parents and try to consult with prior teachers and school administrators. 2. Good question, don’t have a good answer I’m afraid Steve

    Question from Sara Kaminske, Manager-Safety and Emergency Preparedness, Orange County Department of Education, California:
    How many schools have been closed throughout the Gulf Coast region due to Hurricane Katrina and is there an estimate of the number of displaced students and staff members of those schools?

    Robert Johnston:
    We estimate there are some 211,000 displaced students in Louisiana and Mississippi, including students from Roman Catholic and independent private schools.

    Kevin Bushweller (Moderator):
    I want to thank everyone who participated in today’s Web chat. A transcript of the chat will be available on our Website shortly.

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