How to Manage Students With Behavioral Issues

Expanding your discipline policies to cover both the classroom and transportation, providing crisis intervention training to staff and sharing relevant student information with the right personnel will help minimize student violence on the bus and on campus.

Use De-escalation Techniques to Prevent Conflict

So if a student or other individual does demonstrate any of these signs, what should you do?

Brooks points out that “if you’re talking to somebody, then they’re not fighting you. That’s the ultimate goal, to prevent the violence to begin with.”

Using active listening techniques will help school staff, security personnel and bus drivers convince a volatile individual that he or she is being heard, says Summers. Phrases like, “I understand how you feel” and “explain that to me so I can help you” will put the ball in the student’s court, and encourage them to think about the situation.

Summers also suggests that campus staff offer compromises or options — such as explaining the consequences of the student’s actions under school policy so they can make a decision. “Provide options, not threats,” he says.

“Relying on threats and intimidation will generally garner challenges and power struggles,” Boardman points out. “Most kids and people don’t like to be put on the spot and confronted and backed into a corner either verbally or physically.&rdquo

Adjust Your Sentence Structure

When speaking to an angry or frustrated person, it is vital to place the most important information that you want to convey at the beginning of your sentences.

“When people are agitated, they’re not going to listen to the whole sentence,” Brooks says. “So whatever you say first is really the only thing that they are going to hear. You need to say what is most important to the other person, not necessarily what is most important to you. ”

For example, if a student is getting out of his or her seat because they are in a hurry to get home, the driver should say, “I will get you home soon if you sit down” as opposed to “Sit down and I will get you home soon.”

“By simply changing that sentence up like that, what the student hears at that point is ‘I’ll get you home soon’ and that’s what they want,” Brooks explains. “The most important thing to the [student] needs to be stated first.”

Paraphrasing Students’ Words Can Help

A form of verbal de-escalation, called paraphrasing, can also help start a calming conversion with a frustrated person. When he or she says something to you, Brooks explains, you should repeat it back to them in your own words. This  demonstrates that you are actively listening to their concerns.

“People who are agitated or possibly on the verge of becoming aggressive, they want other people to respond to them, just the same way a person in a normal conversation does,” he continues. “So when you start to paraphrase … a lot of times people will pick up on the ‘Oh, there’s a different way to do this. I didn’t realize that we could approach this from this angle over here. I was just thinking we’ve got to go A-B-C, and I never thought we could go from A directly to C.’”

In the same vein, Summers suggests that you can offer a person who is acting out a second chance by asking them to start explaining their problem from the beginning.

Find the Root Cause

Students don’t just become violent — there is often a trigger, at school or in the home, which causes a student to lash out. In order to stop violence as it happens or prevent future incidents, it is important to discover the root cause and address it properly.

“When we look at student violence in America, sometimes it can be attributed to students being bullied and they’ve lashed out in violence,” explains Brooks. “There are a number of reasons for individuals to become violent, whether adolescent or adult. But if we as a society, as teachers, administrators, school bus drivers, if we can find out the root cause — we can deal with it.”

Beauchea suggests that school staff have a “listening ear” when it comes to student safety.

Because the signs of bullying are often subtle, bus drivers and other school personnel must “make sure that [they] look at and address every incident, every time a child tells [them] something is happening,” she says.

Avoid Aggressive Body Language

When approaching a volatile student, it is crucial to remain non-threatening.

“If you’re flinging your arms around because you’re getting excited, that rapid movement subconsciously triggers something in a violent person. You can actually make the situation worse,” Brooks says. “You want to have proper body language and display a sense of calm to the person you’re dealing with.”

Brooks adds that drivers, aides and campus safety and security personnel should avoid appearing like they are charging at a person who is acting out.

“If you’ve got a student in the middle or toward the back of the bus who is getting agitated, the driver doesn’t want to walk down the aisle to that student. It’s seen as charging … You don’t want to encroach upon their personal space.”

Don’t Be Verbally Confrontational

In a similar vein, campus personnel should not resort to yelling to restore order. Not only does it not work, it can actually make the situation worse.

“If I’ve got a loud bus, and I try to yell over all the noise, what am I doing to the overall noise level? I’m raising it,” Boardman says. “The louder I get, the louder they get … and suddenly it comes to where we bump heads.

“A ‘Sit down and shut up’ or ‘I am in charge and you are not!’ approach to managing behavior is no more successful on a bus than it is in a classroom or school hallway,” he adds.

Summers does point out that when a student crosses a line into irrationality, sometimes speaking slowly and quietly won’t cut it.

“When someone is acting irrationally, sometimes it takes a loud voice or noise or unexpected action to stop the chain of irrational thinking and get his or her attention: yell ‘Stop’ or ‘Listen,’” he says.

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