Effectiveness of School-Based Crisis Intervention: Research and Practice

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Research comprehensively examining the efficacy of school crisis intervention procedures and strategies is limited and often restricted to either author-based recommendations or descriptive accounts of crisis responses. The purpose of this study was to identify research-supported practices in school crisis intervention and complete a program evaluation of a local school system's crisis intervention procedures. Three procedures were incorporated. A set of decision rules were developed based on research in evidence-based practices to discern crisis intervention strategies that are strongly recommended, recommended, not recommended, or bearing insufficient data based upon the quality and degree of support available for the practice in the literature over the last 20 years. Upon completion of the literature coding, the crisis intervention procedures employed by a school system were evaluated by assessing the degree of match between the documented procedures and the established research-supported practices in crisis intervention. The third procedure evaluated the perceived level of effectiveness of crisis responses in the school system through structured debriefings completed with school-based crisis teams after a crisis response.

Results of the literature coding revealed patterns of scholarship detailing 98 separate crisis intervention strategies with 7 meeting the criteria for strongly recommended, 23 for recommended, 4 for not recommended, and 64 showing insufficient data.  A pattern analysis showed the majority of strategies reflecting insufficient data to code due to a lack of operational evidence or inconsistent operational definitions or implementation across studies.  Results of the program evaluation indicated that the school system procedures disaggregated more broadly than the literature with fewer discrete strategies identified.  A comparison of strategies showed 6 school system procedures matching with strongly recommended practices, 17 with recommended, 19 with insufficient data, and 0 with not recommended.  Transcriptions from the structured debriefings were analyzed using the constant comparison method.  Results revealed six categories of feedback (crisis preparedness, pre-response planning after a crisis, information flow, student support, staff support, and follow-up) with multiple themes nested within categories.  Practices perceived by crisis responders to be effective or ineffective in each category were discussed.  Implications on current crisis intervention practices and future research were discussed.