Skip to Content

Dealing with Violent Behavior

The following scenarios and action plans to deal with violent behavior were excerpted from a document produced by a work-group collaboration sponsored by the National Education Association. The purpose is to provide guidelines for educational staff to follow when confronted with aggressive behavior.

Under each scenario, presented by educational staff, are a side-by-side document detailing the action plan to follow, and a description of these actions that include information from current law. These are general guidelines—district and state policies are different and the educator must be aware of their district policies.

Prevention and Problem Solving

Scenario 1:

You have a student in your classroom who does not have an Individual Education Plan (IEP), but who is demonstrating potentially violent behavior. The student is threatening to beat up other classmates and has threatened to destroy the classroom. The student has been sent to time-out on many occasions, but continues to engage in these behaviors.



  • Document concerns of observable potentially violent behavior
  • Notify the administrator, in writing, of your concerns
  • Determine if the student has an IEP
  • Refer student for an evaluation to determine if special education is needed
  • Communicate with parents
  • Conduct a child study team
  • Use action plans that are part of your school code of conduct

Time Out

Purpose: A time out may be used to aid a student to compose him or herself. It shall not be used for staff convenience or student punishment.

Duration: A time-out room may be used only as long as necessary for the student to compose him or herself. If the student’s behavior remains dangerous after 30 minutes, we recommend that the principal or his or her designee must authorize continued use, unless otherwise indicated in the IEP, district policy, or state law.

Observation: A student in a time-out room shall be appropriately monitored

Scenario 2:

You have a student in your classroom with an IEP and a history of violent behavior. The student is threatening to beat up other classmates and has threatened to destroy the classroom. The student has been sent to time out on many occasions but continues to engage in these behaviors.



  • Document concerns of observable violent behavior
  • Request an IEP meeting to re-evaluate the student’s placement
  • Request aids and services are provided to the student
  • Request a Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA)
  • Communicate with parents

Examples of Aids and Services that can be requested:

Resource room, itinerant assistant, teacher training, behavior modification, modification of the curriculum for all students, modification of the curriculum for the special education student, parallel instruction, adapted materials, paraeducator assistance, sensitivity training for other students, and planning time for meetings between special needs and regular educators.

Functional Behavior Assessment (FBA)

  • Clarify the behavior
  • Determine the triggers
  • Identify current consequences
  • Collect baseline data
  • Develop hypotheses
  • Test your hypothesis


Scenario 3:

A student continues to exhibit potentially violent behavior and you would like a change in placement. You have a conference with the administrator to discuss your concerns about this student and provide rationale as to why you think this student should be in a different placement. The administrator notified you that the student has an IEP. You wonder how long a student with a disability can be suspended without changing the student’s IEP.



  • Student can be removed from class as long as it is not more than 10 consecutive school days in a school year
  • Fill out discipline referral
  • Contact parents
  • Request an IEP meeting to evaluate FBA and determine if the student is in the correct placement. Rethink the need for supports for school personnel; if you disagree you have the right to fill out a dissenting opinion
  • Write a Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP)
  • Get in contact with your state or local association to determine your next course of action.
  • You can write a state-created danger letter
  • Be aware of laws/policies concerning restrictive interventions (e.g. time-out, restraints, and seclusion)
  • Notify your administrator in writing of your concerns

Stay Put Policy

Except for the reasons set forth below, students generally must “stay put” in their current placement disputes unless an impartial hearing officer or court orders an interim change of placement.

  1. Districts may unilaterally remove a special education student for up to 10 days for violations of the disciplinary code and to the extent which non-disabled students would be excluded.
  2. Exceptions to the rules include students who commit drug or weapons offenses.
  3. IDEA 2004 added a new exception for students who inflict bodily injury upon another.

Court Involvement

A hearing office could change a special education student’s placement for 45 days, and upon subsequent hearings for additional 45-day periods if a district demonstrates by more than a preponderance of the evidence that maintaining the student’s current placement is likely to result in an injury to the student or others. This has been changed in IDEA 2004. The hearing officer has to also consider whether the student’s current placement is appropriate; the district has taken reasonable steps to reduce the risk of injury in the current placement; and whether the proposed alternative is appropriate.

Behavioral Intervention Plan (BIP) includes:

  • Determine substitute behaviors
  • Identify environmental or setting changes
  • Describe necessary prompts or conditions
  • Define strategies
  • Prepare for when things go wrong
  • Specify reinforcement
  • Collect data to reevaluate plan

Physical Restraint

Purpose: The purpose of physical restraint is to reduce or eliminate imminent risk or harm to a person, or damage to property.

Use: We recommend that to the extent permitted under state law and district policy, and the IEP; physical restraint should be used with a student only when there is an imminent risk or harm to a person, or damage to property. Additionally, except as otherwise provided in state law or district policy, reasonable and necessary force may be used to quell a disturbance, obtain possession of weapons or other dangerous objects upon the person of or within control of the student, for the purpose of self-defense, or for the protection of persons or property.

Observation: to the extent practical, any staff member except in the presence of another staff member should not use physical restraint.

Scenario 4:

You have a student who brings drugs or weapons to school, inflicts serious bodily injury to another student, or a student assaults you. What are your rights and what are the student’s rights?



In case of assault, ensuring the safety of others

  • Try to avoid responding physically
  • If you have to respond physically to defend yourself or others, you should use reasonable force given the student’s age, size, and ability to inflict injury.
  • Be sure the situation is stable and that a qualified individual assumes supervisory responsibility for your students.
  • Contact the school nurse
  • Immediately identify and record the names, addresses, and phone numbers of all witnesses, location, time of incident, and the facts surrounding the teacher.

In case of assault with personal injury

  • Call the appropriate association and request assistance
  • Immediately report the incident to the school administration
  • Ask for medical diagnosis and treatment
  • Request that the association assist you in obtaining immediate sick leave and go immediately to your doctor
  • The doctor should know and understand that this is important evidence.
  • Color photos of the injury should be taken.

Special Education Students

  1. Under IDEA 2004, the district may unilaterally remove a student to an Interim Alternative Educational Placement for up to 45 school days. A change in placement after the 45-day alternative placement is subject to the “stay put” rule wherein the student returns to the placement he or she was in prior to the interim alternative placement while the dispute is litigated.
  2. When he or she inflicts bodily injury on another person. The term “serious bodily injury” involves a substantial risk of death, extreme physical pain, protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member, organ, or mental faculty
  3. Student may be removed for 10 days. If a student has an IEP, an Manifestation Determination Review (MDR) must be conducted.

In case of assault, with the assistance of your association

  1. You should insist that the administration immediately document the attack.
  2. Get a copy of the district’s report and reserve the right to correct or add to the report.
  3. You should insist that the administration contact the police immediately. If refused you should contact the police. An accurate report should be filed and you should obtain a copy of the report.
  4. After consulting with your school district’s attorney and the association representative, determine whether you want to file charges.

In the event that counter charges are filed against you

  1. You should not make any statements without contacting and consulting your UniServ office and school district attorney.
  2. Do not agree to or sign any report or charges without such prior consultation.
  3. Do not resign—insist upon the right to union and legal representation.
  4. Assert your right to have an attorney present.
  5. Request information about liability coverage.
  6. In the event a teacher sustains damage to personal property when caused by an assault, such losses can be regained up to a maximum of $500 through the NEA liability policy.
  7. If you are in a collective bargaining state, check your bargaining contract for rules, regulations, or benefits that may apply when a student assaults you.

Scenario 5:

A student with a disability has committed a serious offense that has resulted in a discipline action. What are your responsibilities to this student and what type of consequences does this student receive?



An MDR is being held for a violent student.

Discipline 10 days or less:

Remove for 10 cumulative school days.


Scenario 6:

An MDR is being held for a violent student. What happens during an MDR and what role do I have to play?



  • Participate in the MDR
  • Meet with alternative interim placement personnel should that be an option.

Manifestation Determination Review

  1. Under IDEA 2004, the Manifestation Team makes the decision. The team consists of the parents, the LEA representative, and members of the IEP team as determined necessary by the LEA and the parents.
  2. The team could conclude that the behavior is a manifestation only if it is “caused by, or had a substantial relationship to, the child’s disability”; or if the conduct was the “direct result of the local school’s failure to implement the IEP.”


Next Page: Interim Alternative Settings