Saturday, April 26, 2014

Vignette 4: What Would You Do?

James, an angry student

Background: James is hostile and belligerent.  He frequently appears angry and disrespectful, addressing others with profanity and aggressive gestures.

Scene: James asks to meet with you about his grades.

Ms. Forney: So, James I understand you wanted to see me about your grades.  How can I help you?

James: (Loudly) You can help me by getting rid of all the jerks in my life!  These grades here (hands her some papers) are unfair.  Those damn idiots gave them to me because they don’t like what I have to say.

Ms. Forney: Calm down, James.  Start from the beginning so I know how to help you.

James: (Even louder) Don’t freakin’ tell me to calm down!  I am sick and tired of being treated this way!  And by people who don’t know anything!!  (Gestures with fists in the air) If they don’t stop, I swear I’ll…

Ms. Forney: (Anxious, exasperated) James, you seem angry at me too.  What have I done that upset…

James: You’ve been OK, I guess.  It’s the others that jack me up.  (Slams fist on table)  Talk to them and tell them to leave me alone!

Ms. Forney: I can’t do that James.  But maybe I can help you arrange a meeting with the people you need to talk to about this.

James: Yeah, right, another meeting.  You go ahead and do that.  But it won’t matter tomorrow… (gets up and leaves the office abruptly)

Ms. Forney gets a call from her secretary, Gail, who says:

Gail: Are you OK?  James just stormed out of here and threw a folder at me on his way out!!  I’ve never seen such anger in all my life!

Ms. Forney looks down at one of the papers James handed her.  In the margins James has written: Moron.  You will pay for this.  I will see to it.

Suggestions: Because there are strong indications of threat, as well as objective evidence of aggressiveness, a call to your campus police and behavior intervention or similar team is warranted.  Attorneys have said there is no FERPA impediment to this action, as the information involved represents observable behavior.  It is important to move swiftly so that James gets the help he needs.