When Tragedy Strikes and Yet the School Yearbook Must Go On

Unfortunately, tragedies can happen during the school year before, during and after the final proof of the school yearbook have been submitted to the yearbook publishing company. Students, teachers and non-teaching staff can die through natural causes and foul circumstances, which makes for an emotional time for the school in general.

But emotions cannot be allowed to rule the decisions concerning how these deaths will be dealt with in the yearbook. Otherwise, allegations of favoritism and of disrespect, to name a few issues, can ruin the happy experience of receiving the annual publication.

In these cases, it is essential to adopt a clear policy on how to deal with the death of a student, a teacher or a non-teaching staff on the school yearbook. Keep these things in mind when formulating such policies.


Adopt a Respectful Approach

The underlying attitude should be respectful of the memory of the deceased. Always remember that said individual was someone else’s child, sibling and friend in a student’s case or spouse, parent and friend in a teacher’s case. Respect is essential not only for the deceased but also for those whom he left behind in the world.

Being respectful also means being sensitive. Avoid placing photos, captions and write-ups that may put the deceased in a negative light but avoid ignoring his memory, too.

In case the deceased was not in the school yearbook, the best option is to mention him somewhere else such as in the index. In case the deceased appears in the yearbook, be sure to add the page numbers on the index. You must coordinate with the yearbook publishing company for the additions, which should cause little to no problem when the yearbook is still in the final proof stage.

Being sensitive, in turn, will also mean running the portrait of the deceased even when he died during the school year. Just place his photo and description with the rest of the class while also placing the birth and death years. His parents will appreciate seeing their child in the school yearbook despite the sad circumstances.


Make a Free Memorial

The policy should be clear about the size, style and placement of the memorial to the deceased. Said memorial must also be edited to ensure that it has factual information coupled with a few positive words for the deceased.
For example, a memorial to a student who died during the school year can be stated as follows:

“John Smith (January 1, 1997 – October 25, 2011). He was a great friend whose generosity will always be remembered.”

Going back to the policy, the yearbook committee should be strict about the size (quarter-page or half-page), the style (1×1 photo with description in Tahoma 10 font), and the placement (at the end of the ads section).

It is also possible to run a story. Such a story should ideally be inspirational such as how the student inspired his fellow students or how the teacher touched the lives of several generations of student. The write-up must obviously also be respectful, tasteful and sensitive.

Indeed, tragedies may strike the school but the school yearbook must go on while also taking into account the stories behind the deaths.

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