Student Development
Students of Concern Committee

Aggressive or Potentially Violent Students

  • 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:

    • Paranoia
    • 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

    1. Assess your level of safety. If a student expresses a direct threat to him-or-her-self or others, or acts in a bizarre, highly irrational or disruptive manner, call or have someone call Public Safety (206) 296-5991.
    2. 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.
    3. Explain to the student the behaviors that are unacceptable. 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…" 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.
    4. 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 SOCC (socc@seattleu.edu) or the Counseling and Psychological Services, (206) 296-6090.

    Avoid

    • 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 non-verbal cues

    • Sit or stand erect.
    • Smile and make eye contact.
    • Speak clearly and distinctly.

    Do not

    • Touch the student.
    • Slouch, glare, or sigh at the student.

    After the incident, debrief with department chair or dean, Public Safety Officer, and/or a member of SOCC.