Responding to Student Violence

Disruptive, but non-violent misbehavior by students may signal the potential for violence in the future. Don’t turn your back on offensive but seemingly harmless misbehavior. Early, consistent steps to correct student misbehavior may avert more serious behaviors that can jeopardize your safety and the safety of other students. School districts are fully authorized to discipline, suspend or expel students who openly defy an employee’s authority, who use profane or obscene language, or who threaten a fellow student or school employee. Take every opportunity to urge administrators to use this authority to help you in working to prevent student violence before it occurs.

If you are ultimately confronted with a violent or disruptive student, you should apply the following basic principles:

  1. Try to resolve the problem first without physical intervention. By staying out of the fray, you can minimize the risk of harm to yourself or others. You also reduce the risk that parents or your employer will question the reasonableness or necessity of your response.
  2. If there is time, seek assistance; but try not to abandon a potentially explosive situation. If there is no phone, send a co-worker or a responsible student to the office while you stay and monitor the situation. If necessary, you could yell out or even blow a whistle that you wear around your neck to get attention.
  3. Use physical force only if necessary, and only use enough force to eliminate the risk of harm.
  4. Even if physical force is needed, there is no requirement that you risk injury to yourself.
  5. Use your best judgment under the circumstances, making sure to follow your district’s or college’s written policies on the use of physical force against students.
  6. Call 911 immediately if an altercation is out of control or if the violence is directed against you.
  7. Immediately afterwards, notify school administrators and write down a detailed account of the incident for your own benefit and for the benefit of your Association representative.