A useful guide for dealing with student aggression in the classroom.

A Useful Guide for Dealing With Student Aggression

It’s every educator’s mission to create a positive classroom environment that supports student growth and development. This isn’t always easy when you’re faced with a mix of personalities and learning abilities.

It’s even more difficult when defiant students influence others or create a negative classroom dynamic.

Knowing how to handle and address student aggression in a legally-defensible manner is key to regaining control of your classroom and offering a positive learning experience.

Here you’ll discover tips for implementing a behavior intervention plan that helps not only the student in question but the class as a whole.

Common Behavior Related to Student Aggression

Student aggression can manifest itself in any number of ways but the most common behavior falls into one of three categories — verbal, physical, and vandalism.

When exhibited by a hostile child, these behaviors are usually done with the intent to harm.

Verbal Aggression

Verbal aggression includes emotional outbursts where the aggressive student verbally attacks classmates, teachers, and other authority figures.

Depending on the child’s age, they may act out by teasing, bossing around, or demeaning classmates. Some students resort to sarcasm, threats, swearing, and constant arguing with teachers and other authority figures.

Physical Aggression

As hurtful and worrisome as verbal aggression can be, physical aggression takes the situation to another level.

Kicking, punching, biting, spitting, and throwing nearby objects are all common ways for troubled students to express physical aggression.

Physical student aggression is often directed at one or more individuals. It’s important to remember, however, that its rarely a personal attack rooted in a dislike for the specific individual.


Most people attribute vandalism to older children with aggression issues, but this isn’t always the case.

Vandalism involves not only damaging property but also theft. Younger students may vandalize classroom materials or personal belongings. Older students often turn their aggression on school or personal property.

In most cases, the intent is to elicit a reaction, not necessarily damage, steal, or commit a crime.

Understanding the Reason for Student Aggression

There’s no one-size-fits-all response to why students exhibit aggression, but there are several common underlying factors to consider.

Modeling involves students mimicking the behavior of parents, older siblings, peers, or other individuals they emulate. Peer reinforcement sometimes precipitates student aggression when viewed as positive attention.

Children who lack social skills and the ability to handle stressful situations sometimes act out aggressively. The same is true for children with low self-esteem.

In these scenarios, anger triggers hostile behaviors. When children feel unable to control their behavior it often leads to self-esteem issues.

Reacting to Student Aggression

One of the most important things to remember when handling student aggression is to avoid escalating the situation. Your reaction will determine the next course of action and the events that follow.

It’s normal for a teacher to try and regain control of the student, classroom, and situation using discipline or exerting their authority.

The problem is, the already frustrated student will become increasingly agitated and aggressive when met with defiance or resistance.

An alternative approach involves trying to reason with the hostile student. These teachers recognize that the student’s aggressive behavior isn’t a personal attack, but instead their inability to handle their emotions in a healthy manner.

The problem with this technique is that it often leads to a dead end. Now, the teacher has wasted huge amounts of energy without coming to a solution.

Creating a Behavior Intervention Plan

Creating a behavior intervention plan (BIP) is the best way to handle student aggression and hostile personalities. A BIP offers resources, information, and strategies to help you address and monitor specific student needs.

Behavior intervention plans focus heavily on positive reinforcement. These plans are customized to individual student behaviors and what rewards work best for them.

A BIP is created following observations and assessments of the child’s behavior. It often includes:

  • Target behaviors
  • Specific, measurable goals
  • Detailed steps of how the plan is to be carried out
  • A timeline of events
  • Evaluation methods
  • Responsible persons involved in the execution of the plan
  • Other important data

The BIP must then be approved by all staff members involved in its execution as well as the parents, school administrators, and IEP (individualized education program) team.

Here are a few of the best tools and features to include when adopting a behavior intervention plan to support student success.

Research-Based Strategies

You aren’t the first teacher or counselor in need of resources and help when creating and implementing a BIP — and you won’t be the last.

Research-based studies and strategies offer hands-on advice and insight into proven methods for success. Look for case studies and scenarios that most resemble the situation you currently face.

Although every student needs a specific BIP, research-based strategies offer invaluable knowledge to help you adopt an effective approach.

Skills Training

In order to implement all of these helpful tools and resources, you may need additional skills training. There’s nothing wrong with expanding your knowledge-base and learning different approaches for handling student aggression.

Online webinars and video-tutorials can provide you with invaluable information to support the student’s BIP and increase their chances for success.

Detailed Progress Reports

Monitoring the child’s progress is crucial in determining if the behavioral intervention plan and techniques are working.

Detailed automated reports can help track improvements in the child’s behavior while also indicating which approaches they respond to best. This allows you to make adjustments to the BIP that accommodate changes and improvements in student progress.

Arm Yourself with Knowledge and Resources to Handle Student Aggression

Dealing with student aggression in the classroom setting is a complex issue. Not only do you need to address individual student needs, but also ensure the safety and educational opportunities of the other students.

Our free monthly webinar series on managing student behavior will arm you with the knowledge and resources to do exactly that.

Our software makes it easy to track student progress and create a legally-defensible behavior intervention plan that works — in less than an hour!

Schedule your 30-minute online personal demo today to learn more.

You can also sign-up for our monthly newsletter so you never miss an update on behavior management and other educational opportunities.

Modernize your District's Behavior Management with research-based best-practices.

Easily create comprehensive Individual Behavior Intervention Plans for K-12 students in one hour or less with Insights to Behavior.

Related Posts