School- and Classroom-Based Supports for Children Following the 2013 Boston Marathon Attack and Manhunt

School Ment Health. 2015 Jun 1;7(2):81-91. doi: 10.1007/s12310-014-9140-x.


School staff provide key mental health services following mass crisis events and teachers, in particular, can provide important supports within their classrooms. This study examines Boston-area teachers' perception of classroom-wide psychiatric distress and the types of supports that schools and teachers provided following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt. Boston-area K-12 teachers (N = 147) in communities with varying levels of exposure to the bombing and manhunt completed an anonymous web-based survey 2-5 months after the attack. Teachers reported on students' exposure to the bombings and manhunt, classroom-wide psychiatric distress, and the types of supports they and their schools provided students. Teacher reports of student exposure to the bombings and manhunt were significantly associated with their perceptions of greater classroom-wide psychiatric distress. Almost half indicated that their school had no formal policy for responding to the crisis, half reported no training to address events, and even the most common classroom-based support strategy-reassuring students of their safety-was provided by only 76 % of teachers. Teacher perceptions of student exposure to the manhunt, but not the bombing, were significantly associated with greater provision of these supports. In the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings and manhunt, teachers and schools provided supports; however, the extent and types of supports varied considerably. Working with teachers to most effectively and consistently serve in this complex role has the potential to improve school-based crisis response plans, as well as student outcomes.

Keywords: Child mental health; Disasters; Schools; Teachers; Trauma.