Avoiding physical contact with students

As a substitute teacher, you should NEVER engage in physical contact with students or their personal belongings. The only exceptions might be when school administrators give explicit directions about specific situations, such as asking a student to hand you their phones or helping a student with special needs.  

If a situation with a student gets out of control, it is definitely appropriate to call for support as the consequence of physical contact with a student can be far graver.  Administrators expect to be called in these situations.  

Some alternative actions you can take instead of engaging in physical contact:

  1. First, use proximity, by walking over to the student so you can speak to them more discreetly. Then, in a calm, assertive (but not angry or threatening) voice tell the student that their behavior is not meeting expectations and ask them to stop the undesired behavior.  
  2. Call your point of contact, an administrator, or a teacher who can further engage with the student.
  3. If you cannot get in contact with school staff, send a different student to the office with a note in order to get assistance.

Below are some common scenarios in which subs mistakenly engage in physical contact. In these situations subs should follow these strategies:

1. A student tries to run out of the classroom

  • Let the student run out of the room and immediately call your point of contact, an administrator, or a teacher who can further engage with the student.

2. A student is harming themselves or school property

  • Do not attempt to restrain the student or grab objects out of the student's hands or move their personal belongings.
  • Do move other objects that may become involved and ask other students to move away.

3. A student is engaging in behavior that could harm others, such as throwing objects or hitting others

  • First, ask the other students to move away from the student.
  • If the student is particularly violent or throwing desks or chairs, escort all other students into the hallway.

4. You were instructed to take cell phones/ headphones if students had them out in class

  • Give the student a warning first.  Ask them to put the object away and let them know the consequence for taking it out again: confiscation or being sent to the office/calling an administrator.
  • Do not take any objects from the student unless they voluntarily give it to you. 

5. You are working with a special needs student and you were asked to engage in a specific type of physical contact, but they aren’t allowing you to

  • You do not have to engage in any physical contact.  It is okay to tell the school that you do not feel comfortable with any physical contact with students and let Swing know the situation.
  • Don’t attempt to engage in the requested physical contact by force.
  • Take notes on the student’s behavior and on why you were not able to follow through with instructions.