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Bizarre incident today in the class I was teaching

  1. Aug 28, 2013 #1
    Hopefully this is the correct stack exchange for this, if not feel free to tell me where to move it where it would be more appropriate.

    So I am a teaching assistant and masters student in the math dept. at a large state university. I was holding a discussion section this morning for the class I'm teaching and near the beginning some young man walks in with his shirt off acting verbally belligerent, he then comes up to the front of the room and just kind of stands there, not saying anything just kind of smiling in this creepy way and showing absolutely no signs of embarrassment or anything. After asking the class if anyone knew him (no one did), I told him he could either leave right now or I would get someone to remove him. I'm a small guy and he wasn't huge but he was certainly bigger than me.

    He didn't leave upon request so I stepped out of the room to go get someone, although in retrospect I had no idea at the time who I would have gotten, but then as soon as I stepped out I realized that that probably wasn't a good idea since he could take my stuff or who knows what. So I walked back in and sure enough he's got my water bottle in his hand, so I grab it from him and say something to the effect of,

    "!@#$ it, does anyone big want to help me get this guy out of class?"

    And two guys stand up, and one of them is clearly super pissed at this guy disrupting class and goes straight over to the guy and BAM hits him in the face super hard and he goes down and then hits him again and then kicks him in the face all in the span of like 5 or 6 seconds, like a proper #$!%ing beat down, and there are girls screaming and I'm a bit in shock as I was expecting him to just kind of strong arm him out of the class, and one girl comes up and is like

    "stop hitting him stop hitting him!"

    and I don't exactly remember what happens right after but the guy who was disrupting must have left, and then somehow the assistant dean is like right there and I step outside and talk to her and explain quickly what happened but I don't say that the student hit the guy I just say he got him out of class, and she says later I will need to file a report, and then basically I hold the class which goes fine.

    And then at the end of class I ask the student who hit the guy to wait for me so I can explain what the assistant dean said to me, and after dealing with other students who need something, I'm about to talk to him when the assistant dean comes back in. And basically I ask the assistant dean if she could step outside for a little bit while I talk to this student in private, since I'm not trying to incriminate him since I feel partially responsible since I asked for help and he did get the guy out. Well she gets super offended at this and tells me that "I shoo you, you don't shoo me, get this straight I'm your superior", and so I apologize but I think maybe the look on my face isn't sufficiently contrite and I look rather taken aback at her strong response. So she writes down my name.

    So no one not my professor/student-teacher liaison, not my ombudsman, seems to know what I should expect from all this. I talked to the police and they did apprehend someone fitting the guys description, so I probably don't need to worry about that guy coming back. I am however morally conflicted about having to write a report to the dean's office or whoever I have to write it to, since I don't want to get the student in trouble, since he helped me when I requested it, although I certainly didn't expect him to start beating the guy up, I thought he would just strong arm him out or something.

    I scheduled a meeting with the dean for a week from today (earliest availability), and now I'm super worried that I'm going to be fired or kicked out of my masters program. If I'm fired then whatever that's the way things go, but if I'm kicked out of the masters program that will completely screw up my life. Like I said no one (not my fellow TAs, not my professor/student-liaison, not my ombudsman) seems to know what to expect from all this, and if I should be worried about getting fired or kicked out of the program. Thus I'm turning to people here who maybe know what I should expect from all this.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 28, 2013 #2


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    It doesn't really sound like you did anything wrong - I guess someone could construe asking for help as telling him to beat the guy up but that sounds like a stretch.

    As far as covering up for your student that sounds like something you would need official legal advice on maybe - if you tell them directly he didn't punch the guy I would be worried about whether I would get in trouble for impeding a police investigation (I'm not a lawyer/knowledgable about the law and have no idea whether such a thing is possible, I merely am speculating on the topic). I guess you could keep it vague and say all you saw was them scuffle and aren't really sure what happened but again I don't know what the rules are in this situation, and at any rate if anyone at your university knows about your PF account (or even not) you might want to get rid of this thread/change details so nobody can find it and bust you
  4. Aug 28, 2013 #3
    Does you school not have a campus safety department that you could call for assistance? If not then what is the schools official procedure for handling disruptive/dangerous individuals? Were your actions consistent with the schools policy?
  5. Aug 28, 2013 #4
    @Office_Shredder, Yah I certainly wouldn't lie, if I have to make a full report then I'll have to incriminate the student and that sucks but I wouldn't know what else to do. No one knows about my PF account and I doubt this is serious enough for people to start going online searching for info that may possibly be linked to it, but I'll keep what you say in mind and I might end up deleting the post if things get a lot more serious.

    @mrspeedybob, They do but I didn't know the number, all I knew was 911, and I don't think the guy had actually officially broken any laws. There is a phone in the room which I guess you're supposed to call for campus security, which maybe had the number listed on it, but it's not something that was in the forefront of my mind if I even remembered at all about it, and in such a situation you're acting pretty much on instinct, this isn't exactly something they train you for like in a bank or something.
  6. Aug 29, 2013 #5

    Andy Resnick

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    Unfortunately, these kinds of incidents are more common than they should be- our department deals with several similar incidents every semester.

    First, assuming you never had any training in 'classroom maintenance', you did the best you could do at the time and it is highly doubtful anyone will hold you responsible or allow this incident to affect you academic career.

    Second- now that you have had this unfortunate experience, you should get some training in 'classroom maintenance': put plainly, how to control students. The fact that the initial disturbance was caused by a random person who may not even be an enrolled student does not fundamentally alter your options. You should/could talk to campus security and faculty in the education department to learn strategies and acceptable actions.

    Third- I have to disclose that I have never personally had to deal with a situation like this and I am not sure how I would handle it, other than perhaps making a show of pulling out my cell phone and calling either campus police or the real police. That would have most likely resulted in the person leaving the classroom on their own.

    As for the student(s) who escalated the conflict, you should not feel the need to 'protect' them- they should not have assaulted anyone and must be held accountable for their actions as well. You *do* need to write a report describing the facts about what happened, for a variety of reasons.

    Good luck....
  7. Aug 29, 2013 #6
    If you try to cover this up it is likely to have severe repercussions.
  8. Aug 29, 2013 #7


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    I don't know how common this sort of thing is in the US, but there is the possibility that it has consequences for the institution if not necessarily for you personally - e.g. the other students in the room have families, and some of those families might have lawyers who want to know what is being done to protect their kids. This could easily have ended with your student getting a good kicking (or worse) from the intruder...

    If the college doesn't have any procedures for giving people who are "in charge" of a class basic information on how to deal with emergencies, that's probably not good news for them. If you personally were given that information, but forgot about it, that may not be good news for you!

    I work in industry, and not in the US. I give internal training courses, sometimes at other company sites around the country, or even off-site in hired conference facilities etc. I wouldn't expect to have to ASK about the local emergency procedures, I would expect to be TOLD, before taking charge of the group (and I would put any local contact numbers in my cellphone).

    I've never had to deal with a "real" emergency, but I did once get an unannounced fire drill. No problem - I took the class to the designated assembly point outside the building, checked the number of people against the register, etc. But actually there was a problem - a couple of days later, I got a phone call asking me to explain how we had evacuated a room where the doors of the official escape route were locked, and also blocked by some stacked-up furniture! My explanation that we just left the room through the same door that we had come in didn't get an "A" grade. The follow-up lecture about not checking the emergency exits BEFORE starting the class was irritating - but at least it showed somebody was taking this stuff seriously!
    Last edited: Aug 29, 2013
  9. Aug 29, 2013 #8


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    This is a good point. Even though you asked for help, the student who assaulted the interloper clearly used more force than was necessary. I think you're asking for trouble if you try to protect the student by covering up details. Besides, you had a room full of witnesses. If this situation escalates into legal proceedings, any omissions or lies will soon be revealed.

    In the future, should a situation like this arise again, you'll know to call campus police, who are trained to deal with such situations. Asking students for help is a really bad idea, as you found out, because you don't know what might happen. Unfortunately, you do have to think about how you'll deal with situations like these beforehand so you'll be prepared.

    I would hope that the department, at least, would have your back as it doesn't sound like you did anything terribly wrong. You might want to seek out legal advice just to see where you stand just in case things get complicated. Hopefully the incident just blows over, but if it doesn't, you'll want to protect yourself.
  10. Aug 29, 2013 #9

    So I met with the assistant dean today since I had to turn in a full written report by tomorrow morning. She was pretty upset and clearly doesn't like me and all in all it was a pretty awful experience. She says there's a possibility of a lawsuit and that I might be fired and she took every opportunity pretty much to try and make me feel bad and cut me down.

    However it didn't seem like I need to worry too much about being expelled or anything to do with my status as a masters student, which was what I was really worried about anyways. Honestly I've had a pretty stressful life the past few years and I'm not sure I'm up to dealing with another dagger of Damocles hanging over my head and may just say !@#$ it and quit, and then I just have to worry about classes. I do have a union which I'll probably talk to first and I might see a couple more higher ups just to get some different perspectives on things.
  11. Aug 29, 2013 #10


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    If I can give advice, make your report as truthful and accurate as possible, and get two witnesses to sign off on your account, then it is on the record and it is incontrovertable what happened. If it comes to a lawsuit, you have that evidence in writing.
  12. Aug 29, 2013 #11


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    Poopsilon, sorry to hear about the incident and poor behavior by the assistant dean - perhaps she hasn't had proper training either or she may be worried about herself.

    In any future discussions with the school concerning the incident (and especially the assistant dean), I would emphasize four main things - this person was not a student, you had no idea what he might be capable of doing, you weren't trained in how to deal with the situation and you did the best that you could think of in a very stressful situation. Don't let her sidetrack you by trying to berate you with what she thinks that you should have done. She wasn't there and you aren't to blame for this.
  13. Aug 29, 2013 #12
    Good advice Borg.
  14. Sep 9, 2013 #13


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    Seems to me that it's the university security staff that is at fault here (and if not the security staff , their superiors).You have a lunatic coming to your class with his shirt off and you (and your student) end up having to deal with it without proper background in security.The guy could have been a very strong fighter for all we know (or even have a weapon) , this could have ended very badly.

    I'm very interested in how all of this will play out.
    Last edited: Sep 9, 2013
  15. Sep 10, 2013 #14
    Any updates on this matter?
    I, like reenmachine, am interested in the outcome of this situation.
  16. Oct 14, 2013 #15


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    I'm with vela, here. The student who got up and punched the interloper, then hit him some more and kicked him should be charged with assault, IMO. The deranged/drugged individual could/should have been removed from the classroom much more peaceably.
  17. Oct 19, 2013 #16
    A school where students beat up people who disrupt class is almost as strange as some shirtless wacko barging in on your class. Either the guy lied and did know him or he's a psychopath, in both cases you have reason to file a report.
  18. Mar 24, 2014 #17
    Granted this is an old thread, but I would like to add. When you started at the university, they didn't make you attend a bunch of hr lectures on this type of stuff? A good number to have saved in your phone in campus police. I general call them when I am locked out of my office, but you can call them from class in those situations as well.
  19. Jan 18, 2015 #18


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    Adding to an old thread, even more relevant than when it was started....

    Surely, in this day and age, there should be a prominent sign in every classroom to provide the phone number of campus security, for one-hundred-and-one good reasons! Each such sign should also include the name/number of the room itself.
  20. Apr 13, 2015 #19
    First of all, you must stick to the facts, as you remember them. You do not have to accuse the student who assualted the intruder of performing anything that can be considered a crime. If other students want to do that, they can. Use your words to be as general as necessary to describe what happened. Avoid words that imply feelings on the part of the shirtless person, the student who hit him and any other person who commented or did anything. Avoid inflammatory words. You are a witness to an event. Be as accurate as you can be.
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