Potentially Violent Student
Responding to the aggressive or potentially violent student
Aggression varies from threats to verbal abuse to physical violence. It is very difficult to predict aggression and violence; however, the following can be indicators or “red flags” of potential violence:
- Dramatic change in work or study habits
- Decline in personal grooming
- Deterioration in social relationships
- Impulse control problems
- Argumentative; talks about revenge or vengeance
- Grandiose; always has to be right
- Psychotic, delusional
- Emotional expression that doesn’t match context
- Highly disruptive behavior (hostility, aggression, etc.)
- Strange or bizarre behavior indicating a loss of contact with reality
- Suicidal or other self-destructive thoughts or actions: direct or indirect; verbal or in written materials (assignments, journals, emails, etc.)
- Homicidal threats
What should you do when faced with a student in crisis, or one who is aggressive or potentially violent? Immediately:
- Assess your level of safety. If a student expresses a direct threat to himself/herself or others, or acts in a bizarre, highly irrational or disruptive manner, call or have someone call the University Police Department (662-915-4911).
- Ask the student to leave the classroom so that you may speak away from the other students; remain in an open area with a visible means of escape.
- Remain calm; you stand a better chance of calming the student if you are calm.
- Be respectful, but set clear and firm limits: “I see that you are upset. I need you to sit down. For us to have a conversation, I need you to …”
- Explain to the student the behaviors that are unacceptable.
- Be clear and precise in the words you use.
- Acknowledge the student’s feelings when appropriate; be reassuring.
- Be patient and listen carefully to find out whether the student understands what you are saying. You may have to repeat yourself.
- Be concrete. Try to identify a specific issue, and suggest something that can be done to address it. For example, you may suggest that the student accompany you to the Counseling Center
- Use a time-out strategy (i.e., ask the student to reschedule a meeting with you once he or she has calmed down) if the student refuses to cooperate and remains agitated.
- Contact the Student Intervention Team (firstname.lastname@example.org) or the University Counseling Center (662-915-3785).
- Staying in a situation in which you feel unsafe
- Meeting alone with the student
- Engaging in a screaming match or behaving in other ways that escalate the situation
- Ignoring signs that the student’s anger is escalating
- Crowding the student; observe his or her sense of personal space
- Treating the person with hostility or condescension
- Criticizing the student
- Making sudden movements
Express your authority with nonverbal cues
- Sit or stand erect
- Smile and make eye contact
- Speak clearly and distinctly
- Touch the student
- Slouch, glare or sigh at the student
After the incident, debrief with your department chair or dean, a UPD officer and/or a member of BIT.