OMAHA, Neb. (AP) — A new Westside Community Schools policy outlines how the Omaha district's schools, students and families can channel grief over a student's death without inadvertently glorifying death or damaging kids who are mourning.

The policy calls for no empty chairs at graduation and no school events dedicated to a dead classmate, the Omaha World-Herald reported . The policy also bans funeral or memorial services being held on school grounds.

Memorial plaques should be avoided, and charitable donations should be considered instead, the policy said.

Schools have been contemplating how to balance honor students who've died and drawing attention to tragedy, particularly in cases of suicide.

"School officials must balance the desire to honor and remember a cherished individual with awareness and concern for the emotional well-being of all students," Westside's policy reads.

Officials consulted staff members who had experience handling student grief in an age-appropriate way, said Board President Dana Blakely.

"As these situations arise, it's also very helpful for us to have looked ahead to receive some guidance and some input from the people who know best how to work with our students in a positive and healthy way," she said.

Westside's grief response group is led by two guidance counselors who provide "emotional and psychological support for students following the loss of a classmate, parent or staff member." The group recommends memorial activities, such as creating a scholarship fund or organizing a park cleanup, instead of fixed memorials like plaques or benches.

The policy allows for alternative arrangements to be discussed with school principals and counselors.


Information from: Omaha World-Herald,