What to Do When a Student is Being Physical

Originally, I was going to write my 4th blog post about mental disabilities. I instead decided to put mental disabilities with illnesses in order to inquire about what to do when  student is being physically violent.

Restraint: I personally have seen during my practicum students that are a physical danger to themselves and others be restrained. My question is, it that okay? We are often told that we are to not touch a child in any circumstance as a pre-service teacher, even if it’s given your 5 year old student a hug back. So what should we do when a student is running into on-coming traffic or is about to physically harm another student? Do we have the right as teachers to restrain a child in those circumstances? According to the Criminal Code of Canada we are protected under the supreme court to restrain a child if they are presenting themselves as a danger:

Section 43 of the Criminal Code says:

Every schoolteacher, parent or person standing in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is reasonable under the circumstances.

However, are there regulations to this according to the Ministry of Education in British Columbia? Here is the document answering that question:  https://www2.gov.bc.ca/assets/gov/education/kindergarten-to-grade-12/support/diverse-student-needs/physical-restraint-seclusion-guidelines.pdf

According to this guideline “physical restraint and seclusion are used only in exceptional circumstances where a student is in imminent danger of causing harm to self or others”. It is important to note that if you have a student in your classroom that is at high risk of frequently being dangerous (ex: a student accompanied with a mental health issue that I have examined in my previous posts) that it is “expected to have been trained in crisis intervention and the safe use of physical restraint and seclusion”. Children that are frequently dangerous are also expected to be supported by  “positive behaviour supports and interventions, behaviour plans, emergency or safety plans, and other plans to prevent and de-escalate potentially unsafe situations”.

Physical restraint and/or seclusion should always be the very last resort. There are other strategies that we can use as educators to create a safe environment and de-escalate the situation. These strategies consist of:

-Reducing access to victims of the student with active aggression

-Avoid confrontation with the aggressor

-Use non-verbal cues when communicating with student like the universal signs for  stop, sit, stand, or walk

-Intervene as soon as you notice agressive behaviour

-Communicate expectations

-Wait for help and ignore student

-Provide other options like having the student go for a walk

Resource for this info:


Mental Health Issues

Mental health plays a huge factor in children’s aggression. Mental health issues can cause a deficit or eradication of the impulse control which prevents a child from understanding when their anger is getting out of hand. Some mental health issues that may cause aggression with links to better understand what the issue is and possible treatments are:

-Bipolar Disorder


-Frontal-lobe Damage






-Oppositional Defiant Disorder


-Conduct Disorder


-Attention Deficit Hyper Disorder




-Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (view my previous blog on complex trauma)

-Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder


What to do when student is being actively aggressive?

As we can see, there is a large spectrum of possible reasons as to why a student may be aggressive. What we can do as educators to help a student is being aggressive is understanding what is an appropriate reaction to a mental health issue based aggression. However, there are overall strategies that teachers can use to aid children with managing their anger. Educators need to be assertive and calm when confronting a student experiencing aggression. Teachers can also create environment changes in their classrooms to aid with anger management. The environmental changes can be (but are not limited to) making a cool down area, keep possible weapons like scissors in a teacher-controlled area, post classroom expectations on the wall, teach class evacuation protocol and create a location for evacuation, provide calming tools like headphones or fidget toys, and use a strategical student seating plan to keep designated student in close proximity.