When someone in a school community has cancer, a key part of the principal’s role is to communicate essential information to parents.
To protect a student with a compromised immune system, the school may need to ask parents to notify them if their child has an infectious disease. If the school is planning to host a cancer awareness day, parents should be told ahead of time. When a teacher has cancer and chooses to share that information with the school community, the principal may write to parents to let them know and explain how the school will manage the teacher’s absence. The principal may also need to inform families after a death in the school community.
Cancer Council has prepared some sample letters to help schools share information with clarity and sensitivity.
Letters on this page:
- About a student with cancer
- About a staff member with cancer
- About a cancer awareness day
- About a death in the school community
Letter about a student with cancer
I am writing to advise you that our school currently has a student who is receiving medical treatment for cancer. The student is actively involved in the school community and recovering from treatments and their side effects.
As this student has a compromised immune system and is more vulnerable to disease, it is important that you do not send your children to school if they are unwell. For example, if your child has an infectious disease (such as the measles, chickenpox or flu), your child should stay at home until no longer contagious. For more information about how long an illness is contagious, contact your GP or visit the NSW Health website at health.nsw.gov.au.
I would also appreciate it if you would notify me immediately if your child has an infectious disease. This will allow me to notify the parents of our student with cancer, if necessary.
We appreciate your cooperation. Please do not hesitate to contact me if you have any questions.
Letter about a staff member with cancer
I am writing to inform you that one of our staff members, Mr Glen, is undergoing treatment for cancer. Mr Glen asked me to share this information with you.
Mr Glen will be taking an extended leave of absence commencing immediately. Mrs Lee, the head of the English/History Department, will be covering his classes while he is away.
Students have been told that Mr Glen has cancer, so your child may have questions about it. The school counsellor, or your child’s year adviser is available to discuss any concerns with students at school. You can also call Cancer Council 13 11 20 to learn more about communicating with your child about cancer, or read Cancer Council’s information at cancercouncil.com.au/schools-and-teachers.
Mrs Lee and I will endeavour to ensure that your child’s education is not disrupted by these changes and that any of your child’s needs are addressed. Please feel free to contact me if you have any concerns about changes to your child’s schedule.
Letter about a cancer awareness day
I am writing to advise you that our school is planning to host a cancer awareness day on Monday 19 October. We currently have a student undergoing treatment for cancer, and we would like to raise awareness with other students about cancer.
On this day, our students will present some information about different types of cancer, recent research and prevention measures, and discuss ways they can support people with cancer. We are also asking students to donate a gold coin to a cancer research fund. This is voluntary.
Attendance at cancer awareness day activities is not compulsory, but we encourage participation. If you would rather your child not attend, alternative activities will be provided.
Please notify me by Monday 5 October if you do not want your child to attend the cancer awareness day.
Letter about a death in the school community
It is with sadness that I write to inform you that Ms Christine Jones, a teacher in our Science Department, passed away yesterday. Ms Jones had been undergoing treatment for cancer over the last few months.
Ms Jones was a well-respected staff member. She was passionate about teaching young people and she will be sorely missed. We have informed the students of Ms Jones’s death, and about the school counselling services available to them. Please encourage your child to access these services, if appropriate.
Many students have expressed a desire to attend a service honouring Ms Jones. I have been in contact with the Jones family, and am organising a memorial for Friday 8 May in place of our weekly assembly. Parents are welcome to attend the service, which will be held in the assembly hall from 10–11 am. The P&C will be holding a morning tea in the staff common room for staff and parents following the service.
If you would like to attend the memorial service for Ms Jones, please contact the school office by Thursday 7 May. On behalf of our school community of students, staff and parents, I will be sending our sincere condolences to the Jones family.