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The Violent or Physically Destructive Student

Violence related to emotional distress is very rare and typically occurs only when the student is completely frustrated, feels powerless, and is unable to exert sufficient self-control. The adage, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," best applies here. Also consult section on 'defusing anger in others.'

Helpful Responses—

  • Prevent total frustration and helplessness by quickly and calmly acknowledging the intensity of the situation (e.g., "I can see you're really upset and really mean business, and have some critical concerns on your mind").
  • Explain clearly and directly what behaviors are acceptable (e.g., "You certainly have the right to be angry, but hitting (breaking things) is not okay").
  • Stay in open area.
  • Divert attention when all else fails (e.g., "If you hit me, I can't be of help").
  • Get necessary help (other staff, University Police, Health Clinic, Psychological Services).
  • Remember that student discipline is implemented by the Dean of Students Office.

Less Helpful Responses—

  • Ignoring warning signs that the person is about to explode (e.g., raised voice, quickened speech, clenched fists, statements like, "You're leaving me no choice").
  • Threatening or taunting behaviors.
  • Physically cornering the person.
  • Touching the student.
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