How to Handle Inappropriate Remarks from Classmates

Inappropriate remarks from classmates often fly thick and fast in classroom settings. Students of every age have to deal with a conundrum of unexpected or unanticipated taunting, ridicule and cruelty that takes the form of inappropriate remarks made by other classmates. Many of the remarks can be nasty, hurtful or cruel and teachers can be at a loss with respect with what to do.

The article entitled, “Strategies to Prevent Inappropriate Comments” offers suggestions for teachers aware of what is happening with their students.

“Profanity and put downs between students are disrespectful and can totally disrupt a school day while keeping the students and teacher off task.” 

What can a classmate can do when confronted with inappropriate remarks from other classmates? 

Young students in kindergarten, public or private school, may have difficulty dealing with inappropriate remarks, as can students in high school, college or university. In an era where there are many elderly students, baby boomers and seniors heading back to school, there is reason for serious concern regarding how they will be cope with inappropriate remarks from classmates.

Of course, handling inappropriate remarks from classmates depends to some extent upon the ingenuity of the person to whom the inappropriate remarks refer. It can also depend upon the seriousness of the remarks made by classmates. Some are in fun; others have serious implications.

Consider the following guidelines regarding how to handle inappropriate remarks from classmates:   

Which classmate or classmates are making inappropriate remarks?

Inappropriate remarks often serve as disruptive attention-getting devices employed by the same classmate or classmates. When they succeed in eliciting a response from a classmate, they have served their purpose. If there is no response to them, they become less effective.

When is an inappropriate remark worthy of an acknowledgment or a response?

Never, is the best answer to that question, but at times, a classmate may be forced into acknowledgement or a response.

Who is the target of inappropriate remarks from classmates?

Distancing oneself is often a good idea when there are inappropriate remarks from classmates. It allows a momentary pause that enables one to identify the perpetrator or perpetrators, as well as see who is the target. It may not be you. It may be someone who is more vulnerable, like a younger or older student, or perhaps some student who is a slow learner, or has a disability. Is the reason for the inappropriate remarks justified? No, remarks from classmates should always be appropriate.

Consider the benefits of learning how to ignore inappropriate remarks.

Learning how to ignore inappropriate remarks from classmates, immediately gives a classmate power over those offensive classmates. They cannot succeed in taunting a classmate who chooses not to react. They may be attempting to be antagonistic. On the other hand, if you are aware of what they are doing, you may be able to protect other classmates from their inappropriate remarks too, or help them to learn to deal with them.  

When is a rebuttal or rebuke effective?

Addressing classmates making inappropriate remarks privately or openly may only make matters worse, particularly when your remarks are on the same level as theirs. Choosing a rebuttal or responding only when you can respond on a higher level, is generally more effective.

Does it help to rebuke the classmate who is making inappropriate remarks?

At times, it can and the inappropriate remarks may cease. At other times, the ‘playing field’ may extend outside the classroom, which may not be a good scenario.

Are there pros and cons to reporting inappropriate remarks?

Every student, regardless of age, has the right to attend classes without the subjection to inappropriate remarks from other classmates. Reporting inappropriate remarks to authorities like tutors, teachers or professors, can result in the dismissal of the offending classmate or classmates. Remember that classmates come from all ‘walks of life’ and different kind of backgrounds. Some of them may not know any better. A classmate making inappropriate remarks should receive an appropriate warning first, while repeated inappropriate remarks may warrant dismissal.

In an era of smart phones, there are many ways to catch classmates repeatedly making inappropriate remarks to others classmates. Audio recordings and video evidence are difficult to rebuke.

Forgiving and forgetting goes a long way towards resolution of emotional or mental health problems that can result from receiving inappropriate remarks from classmates.