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Austin Public Schools

Policy 908 - Memorials

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I. PURPOSE

The purpose of this policy is to clarify the criteria and the approval process for proposed memorials for Austin Public Schools students or staff. Following the loss of an Austin Public Schools student or staff member, the primary focus of staff will be on helping those (staff, students, and families) affected by death to make connections to appropriate school and community resources.

The loss of a student or staff member deeply impacts students, staff, and families. Memorial decisions made immediately in the aftermath of a crisis or death may be made without full consideration of the potential implications for students, staff, families, and the community. This policy provides District parameters to guide decision-making regarding school-related memorials.

II. DEFINITIONS

Memorials: Objects or activities to remember an event or deceased person(s).

District Response Team (DRT): A designated group of staff members who develop and execute district-wide procedures for handling mental health needs during the recovery phase of a crisis situation needing grief support.

III. GENERAL STATEMENT OF POLICY

  • In recognition that schools are designed primarily to support learning, school sites should not serve as the main venue for memorializing students or staff.
  • Memorial activities that take place at school must be coordinated through the Superintendent or designated group by the Superintendent, such as the DRT. The Superintendent or designated group by the Superintendent will assist families and students in selecting appropriate memorial activities for school and will assist students in healthy bereavement.
  • As approved by the school principal, temporary school memorials may be displayed until the day of the funeral and will then be given to the family. Allowable temporary memorials are flower arrangements, banners, pictures, notes, and locker and student desk displays.
  • Memorial symbols displayed by individual students or staff on school grounds will be limited in duration to one month past the funeral and must have prior approval of the school principal.
  • Permanent memorials for deceased students and staff are limited to endowments, scholarships, Floor on The Wall, books, or items with educational significance. Scholarship and endowment memorials may be established either as one-time or perpetual awards, with a description of the purpose of the endowment or scholarship.
  • Memorials may not include the retirement, alteration, or discontinued use of school property. Other recommended memorial activities include:
    • Yearbooks: A student who has died may be acknowledged in the yearbook their senior year of high school with parent/guardian input and/or approval. Information about the student will be included on a memorial page representing all students in the graduation year. Information shall be limited to the student’s name, photo, dates of birth and death, and school activities in which the student participated.
    • Commemorative Events: A commemorative event may be established and held in the name of the deceased student or staff member. Activities cannot be held during the school day, and should be sponsored by a class, club, or activity in which the deceased student or staff member participated. Advertisement of events must occur outside the school day. It is recommended that commemorative events utilize community partners (e.g., employers of the deceased, faith communities, etc.)
    • Graduation Recognition: One symbol representing all deceased members of a graduating class, such as a plant or bouquet of flowers, may be present on stage. A member of the school administration can also direct the audience in a moment of silence to collectively recognize deceased members of the graduating class.
    • Moment of Silence Recognition: Upon request or permission of the deceased student’s or staff member’s family, a ‘moment of silence’ may be used following the death of a student or staff member to honor their memory. School-wide moments of silence should occur within 2 school days following notification of the death. Moments of silence are also approved for use at ISD 492 School Board meetings, co-curricular events in which the deceased participated, and community based events.
  • Existing memorials established prior to the implementation of this policy will remain intact. Existing memorials are generally the sole responsibility of the entity providing the memorial; district staff and/or finances may only be used to maintain current memorials as part of regular maintenance processes and/or to ensure safe conditions. The district reserves the right to remove a memorial if it is not or cannot be maintained or is contrary to the overall educational needs of students.
  • The school district reserves the right to accept or decline permanent memorials consistent with Policy 706 – Acceptance of Gifts.

IV. PROHIBITED MEMORIAL ACTIVITIES

  • Memorials following a death from suicide must not glamorize, romanticize, or stigmatize the act of suicide.
  • School staff will monitor anniversary dates and may provide small group or individual counseling and/or other supportive activities to friends of the deceased in order to assist with grief recovery. School-wide recognition of anniversary dates will not occur.
  • Selling and/or fundraising of memorial items during the school day is prohibited.
  • District student activity accounts or proceeds from district cocurricular events cannot be used to support, finance, or fundraise for memorialization.
  • Utilizing formal all-school or school-wide events, including but not limited to, Commencement, Homecoming, or Prom to memorialize deceased students or staff, is prohibited. Commemorative items or events can be sponsored by the community and promoted outside the school day.
  • In consultation with the DRT, the Superintendent has the discretion to consider memorial events that utilize district facilities when the death of a student, staff member, or community member has a significant impact on a majority of students, staff, and community.
  • Formal, school-wide recognition of anniversary dates will not occur. If the death of a student or staff member occurred in a public location accessible by community members, such as a crash site, district staff will not provide memorial monitoring.

Legal References:

  • Minn. Stat. §123B.02 Subd. 1, Subd. 6 (Board Authority) (Bequests, Donations, Gifts)
  • Policy 706- Acceptance of Gifts

Policy Adopted: 12.13.21

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