What next steps should you take in these situations?
Let's imagine an extreme scenario in which you're in class and have handed some graded papers to your students. One student, who we will call Darren, reviews his paper and appears to become enraged at the grade he has received. He stands up, then shouts "This was a great paper. You don't know shit. You stink, Professor X, and you'll regret this! You will suffer and everybody in this class will be sorry for what you've done", then forcefully throws his chair against the wall, barely missing another student. Darren then storms out of the classroom.
Although emergency situations vary, some general tips for you to consider include:
"We are going to end class for today and reconvene next week. I'd like someone to call 847-925-6330 right now and ask them to come (to your classroom location) as soon as possible"
- Addressing the most important objective, which is to protect yourself and others. Be calm, and as much as possible, strive to model composure in your behavior.
- Speak clearly and straightforwardly as you address the situation and talk with the students in the class:
- Remember to focus on the behaviors or events unfolding. Do not engage in speculation or make diagnoses. Acknowledge students feelings as the situation permits.
- Set immediate goals, such as the decisions depicted above, in which class was ended early, and the Police were called.
- Be aware of the responsibilities and the limitations of your role. Even if you have a background in law enforcement, health care, or mental health, your role here is as the instructor.
- Be cautious of your body language. Yelling at Darren to get back in his seat and stay in the classroom, confronting him, or getting too physically close to him would be inadvisable.
- Do the best that you can to think about ways to safeguard yourself and others in the moment. For example, there are times when it could be beneficial to lock the door and wait for the Campus Police to arrive when a student like Darren storms out.
- Remember that as faculty members, we can ask a student to leave class for a specified period of time (usually, for a class period). The Police and Conduct Officer can remove a student for longer periods of time.
Some other types of emergency scenarios can involve students experiencing health care emergencies in the classroom. This can include students going into diabetic ketoacidosis, fainting, or bleeding. Other times, students may appear inebriated, high, or delirious. The Harper College Police or 9-1-1 should be contacted in these instances. The Police are expert in rapid triage and will call in other resources as needed. Police response may include calling the paramedics or another office on campus. And, if you call 91-1, the emergency dispatch will communicate with Campus Police. Some faculty have expressed reticence to call police, but the police should be your first call whenever you encounter an immediate safety related emergency. Only after the immediate safety needs of your classroom community have been addressed, including all of your students and yourself, should other resources come into play. It is important to let your Dean, and Chair or Coordinator know if this kind of event has unfolded in your classroom. And, a caveat: while it is important to share this information with involved campus personnel such as your Dean, health care information is sensitive, so try to respect the student's privacy. Information about health emergencies taking place in class should only be disclosed to appropriately involved members of the campus. Last, but by no means least, think of your own needs. Self-care is important. If you are feeling understandably shaken after witnessing and/or helping to manage an emergency in your classroom, connecting with supportive colleagues, friends, loved ones, and campus resources is encouraged, and a sign of strength.
A disruption in real-time
Although it isn't easy to watch, in the service of promoting prevention and preparing yourself for the possibility of serious disruption, I would recommend you view and then think about the following video. It's a scenario of a disruption that unfolded in real-time in a classroom at Florida Atlantic University. After you've viewed this video, I'd encourage you to reflect, knowing that "hindsight is 20/20"; but also acknowledging the important lessons learned from this clip. Think about the professor's role and focus on his responses as the event unfolded. If this kind of scenario took place in one of your classrooms, would you do anything differently? How, and why? What resources might you have utilized? What are your thoughts about how the other students in the classroom responded? Next, take some time to think about your own emotional reactions to this video. As the student of concern escalated, she voiced the pain of racism and described racially charged events in our country, then shared that she felt marginalized in class (i.e. as professor and other students inquired whether she was enrolled in the class). She escalated to making clear threats of violence. How did this impact you? Were you "triggered", and if so, what kinds of self-care and support would you seek to address your own well-being, if chose to seek supports. How would you address these issues with your students? Would you try to "debrief" this incident after reconvening with your class in the aftermath of the event? What do you think the consequences of not addressing the incident might be, in terms of your relationships with your other students?