After a Suicide: A Toolkit for Schools | 18 Working with the Community Because schools exist within the context of a larger community, it is very important that before a suicide or other death occurs they establish and maintain open lines of communication and working relationships with community partners, such as the coroner/medical examiner, police department, local government office, funeral director, clergy, mental health and health care professionals, and community-based agencies. In many communities, schools and community partners may have established a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to clarify requirements and responsibilities. With these relationships already set up, schools and community partners will be ready to work together in the event of a crisis. If these relationships and MOUs are not in place, reach out to the partners described in this section as soon as possible after a suicide occurs to help clarify roles. Key Considerations The school is in a unique position to encourage open and constructive dialogue among important community partners, as well as with the family of the deceased student. Even in those realms where the school may have limited authority (such as the funeral), a collaborative approach allows for the sharing of important information and coordination of strategies. For example, a school may be able to offer relevant information (such as input on the likely turnout at the funeral) and anticipate problems (such as the possibility that students may gather late at night at the place where the deceased died). A coordinated approach can be especially critical when the suicide death receives a great deal of media coverage, and the entire community becomes involved. Coroner/Medical Examiner As noted in Get the Facts (in the Crisis Response section), the coroner or medical examiner is the best starting point for confirming that a death has been declared a suicide. So to help make accurate information available and to avoid or stop the spread of rumors as quickly as possible, it is important for the school to maintain a positive working relationship with the local coroner or medical examiner. Police Department The police are also likely to be an important source of information about the death, particularly if there is an ongoing investigation (e.g., if it has not yet been determined whether the death was a suicide or homicide). The school needs to be in close communication with the police to determine (a) what they can and cannot say to the school community so as not to interfere with the investigation, and (b) whether there are certain students or staff who must be interviewed by the police before the school can debrief or counsel them in any way. If school staff are to be interviewed, the school may want to consult its legal counsel prior to the interview(s). There may also be situations in which the school has information that is relevant to the ability of the police to keep students safe. For example, the school may become aware that students have established a memorial off-campus and may even be engaging in dangerous behavior (such as gathering in large groups at the site of the death at night or holding vigils at which alcohol is being consumed) and may need to enlist the cooperation of the police to keep the students safe. The school may also be in a unique position to brief the police (and even the family of the deceased student) about what to expect at the funeral or memorial service in terms of turnout and other safety concerns.