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On April 15, 2008, six students (aged 16 years) and one teacher (aged 29
years) from a New Zealand school lost their lives in a river canyoning tragedy.
The present study investigated the school principal’s perspective of how he led
his school through the tragedy, and the role of faith in the school’s coping.
The school principal was interviewed two years after the event. The school’s
Christian foundation was the fundamental source of strength and guidance for
the principal, as well as for students, staff, teachers, and families in the
immediate aftermath of the tragedy and in the two years following (i.e., to the
time of the present study), the Christian culture of the school guiding
decision-making. Support from outside the school (e.g. critical incident
support; teaching support from other schools; social support from community
agencies and civic leaders) also played an important role in assisting the
school through the tragedy, particularly in the immediate aftermath of the
event. Further studies are required that allow the voices of children, families
and school staff to be heard regarding leadership strategies that impact on
them through a disaster.