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:


3 Replies to “What to Do When a Student is Being Physical”

  1. Lovely post Hannah! I think we are in such a tricky position where we are often told one thing from VIU, but we always see something different in practice! You provided us with really good guidelines that are easy to follow!

  2. thanks for doing this research, hannah. i’ve wondered about this stuff as well, especially the extreme circumstances. having all the answers and resources in one place is great!

  3. this has always been a question I had, too. I feel like if there is a student that can be violent (and need restraining), as student teachers, we probably maybe legally (??) shouldn’t be alone with them. At least, there should be a teacher/EA very close by.
    I feel that’s really an interesting topic because it could be prevalent in our practicums.
    thank you for posting the links. Perhaps this would be best confirmed/talked about with our sponsor teachers and principle of that school- to know they will be in support of whatever happens during our practicums.

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