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Violent and Aggressive Behaviour

Dealing with a student who is being verbally aggressive and/or physically violent can be frightening. Always call for help (contact security on 9385 6666) if you or others are in imminent danger.

The following levels of response correspond to the degree of hostility present in the student. If you feel that a situation is becoming potentially more violent, consider higher levels of intervention.

  1. Diffusing the Situation
    • Be aware of your feelings
    • Stay as calm as you can
    • Show empathy and concern
    • Avoid contradicting the student or insisting you’re right
    • Be direct, set limits, and don’t tolerate abuse
  2. Get assistance
    • Tell the student “let me see if I can find someone who can help”
    • Talk about your concerns with your supervisor or with peers
    • Have a plan in place for times when you feel threatened and need others to assist
  3. Get to a safe location
    • Call Security on 9385 6666 and state "Personal Threat", or get someone else to.
    • Retreat to locked office or other safe place while waiting

Disruptive Behaviour

Disruptive behaviour can interrupt and interfere with the day-to-day functioning of the educational process. Disruptive students may often verbally intimidate others, or be excessively demanding of faculty or staff. They may repeatedly interrupt a class by making hostile remarks out of turn, and aggressively talk over the lecturer.

Helpful to:

  • Be consistent with your dealings with students
  • Calmly and firmly request that the student stops the disruptive behaviour
  • Ask the student to leave the classroom/lecture if behaviour continues
  • Ask to speak with the student privately about concerns they may have. You may want to ask a colleague to join you if you are uncomfortable with meeting the student alone
  • Use “I” statements to address the concern
  • Check that you understand the issue
  • Log/document the behaviour, including the name of student, date, and time of the incident

Not helpful to:

  • Assume that the student is acting out in malice. It may be the case that they are unaware of how disruptive their behaviour is
  • Engage in debate
  • Ignore the behaviour if it is occurring repeatedly
  • Jump to conclusions about why the student is being disruptive
  • Become aggressive
  • Take the student's behaviour personally
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Level 2, East Wing, Quadrangle Building, UNSW Sydney NSW 2052 Australia Telephone +61 2 9385 5418
Authorised by Director, Counselling and Psychological Services
UNSW CRICOS Provider Code: 00098G ABN: 57 195 873 179
Page last updated: 12 September 2014