De-escalation Strategies for Violent Students
Teachers are reporting assaults by students in their classrooms with increasing frequency. From being kicked or bitten, to having chairs and books thrown at them, schools are dealing with a sharp rise in aggressive student behavior. Violence in the classroom can have a lasting effect on your staff, prompting them to leave the district or the profession entirely.
According to a study published in the Journal of Interpersonal Violence, almost 44 percent of teachers who had been the victim of physical assault said the attack had a negative impact on their job performance, and 27 percent said they thought about quitting their jobs afterwards.
Training and Administrative Support
Providing your teachers training on violence de-escalation techniques may help prevent a violent incident in the classroom. This training should be available to all staff, not just to your special education teachers and paraeducators. Training resources include:
- The American Psychological Association (APA) has information on the warning signs of youth violence. Ensure your educators are familiar with and prepared to identify the early warning signs of aggressive and violent behavior.
- The APA offers free training courses on classroom management and disruption intervention
- The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL)
- The Crisis Prevention Institute (CPI)
Administrators need to provide appropriate support for their staff, allowing teachers to remove violent students who are a threat to themselves or others from the classroom.
- Always respond to threats. If a student threatens violence towards someone else, it’s important to always speak to the student and explain why threatening comments are never appropriate. Discuss with the student ways they could express their anger without affecting the safety of others.
- Distract the student. If a student is acting violently, try to de-esclate the situation by speaking softly to the student and acknowledging their anger. Attempt to distract the student by changing the subject or asking them about something they enjoy.
- Be assertive and directive but not aggressive. Do not argue or respond to verbal threats or abuse. Do not threaten the student verbally or physically.
- Provide adequate space, at least two arm’s-length of distance, from the student.
- Communicate expectations using simple, direct language. Attempt to coach the student through moderating their own behavior. Rephrase the student’s wants and feelings and build rapport by identifying points of agreement.
- If efforts to calm the student down do not work, send for help and move the other students out of the classroom.
- Wait for help (if possible).
- Use physical intervention only as a last resort, and then only if your school’s policies permit it and you are trained to do so.
- Report the incident. If a violent incident does occur, report the incident immediately to school administrators.
The National Education Association has scenarios and action plans to deal with violent student behavior that outline actions staff members can take to respond to violent or potentially violent behavior.