Guidebook for Addressing
Disruptive Student Behavior
- Disruptive Student Behavior: Literature Review
- From the Code of Conduct Office
- From the Counseling and Career Development Center
- From the Moraine Valley Police Department
- From the Center for Disability Services
As college faculty, staff and administrators, we expect that by the time students reach us, they will know how to behave in a civil manner in the classroom and around the campus. Sometimes, students act in a way that can be annoying, disruptive or even threatening. This may substantially interfere with teaching or conducting college business. Students come to Moraine Valley with their past experiences, their own stressors, and emotional, intellectual and moral development levels. Most students are successfully engaged in the learning process, but for those students who show signs of distress or who become disruptive, Moraine Valley has a disciplinary process outlined in the Code of Student Conduct.
The Code of Conduct Office exists to support a safe and productive learning environment for the community, to establish college policies that define behavioral standards for all students, and to operate a fair hearing process. In doing so, our mission is to guide student learning on appropriate behavior, civility, and ethical decision-making. Our students are viewed as adults who are responsible for making decisions that support their learning and the learning environment of others.
This guidebook for addressing disruptive student behavior was developed to assist faculty and staff in handling disruptive student behavior. Faculty should feel informed and supported when dealing with student problems. Faculty also should feel prepared to address disruptive behavior before it may require the intervention of the student conduct administrator or police department. Of course, when student behavior is threatening or volatile, it is always appropriate to call the Moraine Valley Police Department for immediate assistance.
This guidebook for addressing disruptive student behavior includes information from presentations made by the Counseling and Career Development Center, Center for Disability Services, and Code of Conduct Office. The information has been consolidated into this guidebook for your easy access. If you have comments or questions, please contact the Code of Conduct Office.
II. Disruptive Student Behavior: Literature Review
Much has been written about the behavior of some students in college classrooms. A number of articles were reviewed for this publication. A few of the salient points made in these articles are listed here, not in any particular order.
- Classroom disruption may be defined as behavior a reasonable person would view as likely to substantially or repeatedly interfere with the conduct of a class.
- Most students want to participate in a positive and productive learning environment.
- Principles in responding to disruptive behavior are “clarity” in expectations, courtesy and fairness in your responses, and progressive discipline.
- If disruption is serious and persistent and other measures have failed, request the student leave the class for the remainder of the class period. If the student refuses, contact the police department.
- Call the police department whenever you believe there is a threat of violence or unlawful behavior, including a student’s refusal to leave the classroom after being told to do so.
- Document and respond to incidents. Undocumented disruptions never happened.
- Students with or without disabilities need to adhere to reasonable behavioral standards.
- The class syllabus should include basic guidelines for acceptable behavior in the classroom.
- Setting a tone of respect and practicing effective interpersonal skills and common courtesies are essential in establishing civility in the classroom.
- The court wrote in Salehpour v. University of Tennessee (1998), “The rights afforded to students to freely express their ideas and views without fear of administrative reprisal must be balanced against the compelling interests of the academicians to educate in an environment that is free of purposeless distractions and is conducive to teaching. Under the facts of this case, the balance weighs in favor of the University.”
- The primary responsibility for managing the classroom environment rests with the faculty.
- Defining and enforcing reasonable rules can enhance freedom, in the same way that traffic rules can enhance mobility.
- All students must comply with the Code of Student Conduct.
- Expect the best from your students.
III. From the Code of Conduct Office
The mission of our college is to educate the whole person in a learning-centered environment, recognizing our responsibilities to one another, to our community, and to the world we share. Consistent with our mission and core values of integrity, responsibility, respect, fairness and diversity, it is expected that students will govern themselves appropriately. The college recognizes a student’s right within the institution to freedom of speech, inquiry and assembly, to the peaceful pursuit of an education, and to the reasonable use of services and facilities of the college.
The Code of Student Conduct defines standards of conduct and establishes procedures to provide a full and fair opportunity for review of alleged student misconduct.
Suggested Strategies and Resources for Faculty Dealing with Disruptive Student Behaviors
- Inappropriate language/responses
- Entering classroom late or loudly
- Excessive absences from class
- Preparing to leave before class is over
- Loud gum chewing
- Using cell phones/electronic devices
- Attire that is distracting and/or inappropriate
- Speaking out of turn
- Having side conversations
- Reading non-classroom-related material
- Playing video games on computers or cell phones
- Emailing, Web surfing, text messaging
- Sleeping in class
- Asking inappropriate questions not related to subject
- Blatant non-cooperation with instructor
- Verbal or physical threats
- Verbal or physical assaults
- Confrontations with faculty or another student
- Student-on-student hostility
- Outbursts of profanity
- Running around classroom
- Harassing another student, including sexual harassment
- Throwing of things
- Possession of weapons
How to Reduce Problematic Behaviors
Take control at the start:
- By establishing your expertise on the topic.
- During the first class session, take ample time to discuss expectations for behavior, along with academic work. This should be listed in the syllabus.
- Include in your syllabus unacceptable conduct that you do not tolerate and make it clear.
- Include in your syllabus a statement that cell phone use, texting, and e-mailing in your classroom is not allowed.
- State rationale for good classroom behavior and order. Include your classroom discipline process.
- Share some worst case scenarios; ask others to share their experience with witnessing bad behavior and the effect it had on the classroom. Also, discuss the consequences to offenders.
- Have students sign a behavior contract—expected behaviors and consequences (an option used by some faculty).
- Distribute and discuss the Code of Student Conduct. Review possible consequences for infractions. Learn the Code of Student Conduct and the Student Complaint and Hearing Process yourself.
What Can I Do During Class to Encourage Personal Responsibility and Discourage Inappropriate Behavior?
- Greet students as they enter; smile, use eye contact.
- Always start class on time.
- If there have been prior problems, start each session with reminders of expected behavior.
- Learn students’ names and use them.
- Praise good behaviors.
- Deal quickly with any classroom conduct problems as they happen.
- Make sure students understand the value and importance of the instruction offered in the class. Just implying that the subject is intrinsically beneficial won’t work.
- Move about the classroom and use verbal or physical gestures to remind student of rules.
- Praise the students for compliance.
- Engage students more during class. Keep them involved.
- Show them they have choices.
Have a Progressive Discipline Plan in Place
- Address problematic behaviors through direct contact with individual in private. Ask individual to observe the rules.
- If behaviors continue, hold a conversation with the offending student after class.
- Talk about what triggers their behavior, what the actual offending behavior was, and possible consequences of their behavior.
- Look at this as an educational moment to re-teach rules. Describe the behavior in nonjudgmental terms, and say why it is a problem; give student opportunity to give examples of better choices of behavior.
- Give a warning; it could be verbal or written. Remind them of possible campus disciplinary action or removal from classroom. Refer to the Code of Student Conduct.
- Document all meetings with the student describing what was communicated.
- Acknowledge behavioral change and growth of student if behavior improves.
What to Do During the Student Conduct Process
- Remember to document each and every incident—time, date, witnesses, your actions.
- Maintain all assignments, emails and other material for problematic students.
- Make sure someone else is around for safety and as a witness while in contact with a problematic student.
- Keep your supervisor (dean or assistant dean) informed, as well as the Assistant Dean of Code of Conduct and Student Life.
- If behaviors fall into threatening or illegal categories, call the Moraine Valley Police immediately at extension 5555.
What Not to Do When Your Class Is Disruptive
- Punish the many for the transgressions of the few.
- Bully students (i.e., teasing, insulting, ridiculing or sarcasm).
- Lower overall grade as punishment.
- Teach through coercion.
- Use profanity.
- Rant and rave to make your point.
- Send students to Code of Student Conduct Office for inconsequential infractions.
- Ask students to repeat unacceptable language (i.e., “What did you say?”).
- Discipline student in front of the class.
What Happens Once an Official Misconduct Report is Made?
- An official report can be made through:
- A police incident report
- A phone call or written complaint to the Assistant Dean of Code of Conduct and Student Life
- Depending on the severity of the situation, one or more of the following interventions may occur:
- The student may be asked to set up a meeting with a student conduct administrator.
- The student may be sent an official letter with citation of possible code violations specifying a time and place for a meeting with the student conduct administrator.
- An interim suspension from class or school may be enforced until the code violation is investigated and resolved.
Investigation of the Case
The student conduct administrator will:
- Interview accused student.
- Talk with faculty member or complainant.
- Interview witnesses.
- Review history of behavior and intervention by faculty member.
- Review student’s academic history.
- Check files for past offenses.
- Talk with Disability Services, Counseling, or other faculty and staff.
Deciding if a Student Violated the Code
The student conduct administrator will:
- Determine if facts indicate a violation of the Code of Conduct has occurred.
- Determine if the accused student is responsible for his/her behavior.
- Decide on sanction(s).
- Warning, probation, loss of privilege, fines, restitution, educational sanctions, withdrawal from class(es), limited access, college suspension, college expulsion
Where to Look for Support and Ideas to Assist with Classroom Behavior
- Fellow faculty members
- Your supervisor or dean
- Code of Conduct and Student Life
- Counselor from the Counseling and Career Development Center
- Academic publications
- Internet searches
- Workshops offered through the Center for Teaching and Learning
Amada, G. (1999) Coping with misconduct in the college classroom: A practical model. Asheville, N.C.; College Administration Publications
Rookstool, J. (2007) Fostering civility on campus. Washington DC: Community College Press
Tauber, R. (2007) Classroom management: Sound theory and effective practice (4th ed.) Westport, Conn: Praeger
Code of Conduct Office
Assistant Dean (708) 974-5390
Coordinator (708) 608-4272
Building U, room U115
Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Friday summer hours 8 a.m.-Noon
IV. From the Counseling and Career Development Center
As a faculty or staff member at Moraine Valley, you interact with students on a regular basis and, in many instances, are the first to see that a student is struggling either with coursework or a personal issue. Your willingness to help may make an important difference in the student’s ability to achieve a successful outcome. To help you better prepare, we want you to know the signs of distress and what you can do to help your student.
Signs of a Student in Distress
- Talking and/or writing about personal concerns like relationship issues, adjustment to college, and lack of direction.
- Talking and/or writing about disturbing acts such as suicide; harm to self or others; or sexual, verbal, or physical abuse.
- Change in the quality of the student’s work (e.g., poor grades or missed assignments).
- A student’s exam results do not match his or her apparent knowledge of the exam’s subject material as evidenced in his or her class discussion and participation.
- Excessive absences from class.
- Exaggerated and inappropriate emotional responses (e.g. interrupting, laughing or commenting on others in a derogatory manner, creating conflict or arguing inappropriately, etc.)
- Unusual or changed patterns of interaction in class.
- Disruptive in-class behavior.
- Depressed behavior such as lack of energy or deterioration in personal appearance.
- Student appears to be consistently attending class in a “hung-over” state, such as:
- Fatigued or “in a fog”
- Eyes closed, head on desk
- Lowered concentration
- Increased anxiety
- The odor of alcohol, cannabis, etc.
Responding to a Student in Distress
- Be available to students—Let the student know you are interested and concerned about their welfare. Try to listen to the student from their perspective.
- Listen attentively—You might address the student’s personal concerns directly and extend an invitation to the student to speak to you privately. Show sensitivity to the student by conveying your genuine concern in a manner that is supportive and nonjudgmental.
- Keep in mind your limits—Don’t get more involved in the student’s life than is appropriate or comfortable for you (e.g., length of the conversations, when and where they take place, how much is expected of you).
- When in doubt. You may be undecided to intervene or not. When in doubt about a situation call the Counseling and Career Development Center and consult with one of the counseling faculty.
- Refer Students to the Counseling and Career Development Center (CCDC) — If counseling seems indicated refer the student to one of
our professionally trained counselors using the following guidelines:
- Explain to the student why you are recommending a referral to a counselor. Be specific and focus on his or her behavior. For example, you might say, “I can see you are experiencing some real difficulties. I would like you to get the assistance that you deserve by referring you to a counselor who is trained to work with students on personal issues.” Assure the student that any counseling services are strictly confidential.
- Propose the student calls Counseling at (708) 974-5722 or goes to the Counseling Center (Building S, Room S202) to make an appointment. Complete the Interdepartmental Student Referral Form for the student to present to the counseling appointment desk (forms can be found in the offices of the department chair or dean).
- If the student feels uncomfortable seeking counseling services, propose to accompany the student to the Counseling Center (with the referral form) or call from your office to arrange an appointment time. For some students, support from you as an instructor is crucial to seeking assistance for their concerns. Again, complete the Interdepartmental Student Referral Form.
- Students can be seen by appointment; however, if this is an immediate concern you can call or walk the student to the counseling department for immediate assistance.
Note: Once the student is referred to the Counseling Center, professional protocol requires that confidentiality is maintained. A release of information must be signed by the student authorizing the counselor to provide any information including that contact with a counselor occurred.
What to Do if a Student Does Not Approach You for Help
Consider these important factors:
- To what degree is the student’s behavior negatively affecting his/her academic success and/or the class environment?
- How comfortable do you feel addressing your concerns with the student?
- Call the Counseling Center and consult.
Counseling and Career Development Center
Building S, Room S202
Mon.-Thurs. 8 a.m.-7:30 p.m.
Fri. 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Friday summer hours: 8 a.m.-Noon
V. From the Moraine Valley Police Department
Safety is of the utmost concern. That includes the safety of the student and his or her classmates along with, of course, your safety. Learn to trust your “gut instinct” and do not hesitate to seek immediate assistance if safety is threatened. At times, it is quite clear that a student is out-of-control and an imminent danger to him/herself or others. However, often the degree of threat is difficult to determine. It is not the instructor’s role to evaluate and determine the degree of the student’s threat potential: this is the role of the police, counselors, supervisors, etc.
These indicators reflect a serious problem and do require an immediate response from Police:
- Inability to communicate clearly due to garbled speech or disconnected thoughts.
- Loss of touch with reality (i.e., individuals report hearing or seeing things that do not exist or express beliefs that are in conflict with reality).
- Talking about committing suicide (i.e., “I can’t go on…there’s no reason to continue.”).
- Threatening to seriously harm or kill someone.
- Student shows signs of being under the influence of alcohol or other substance(s), which cannot only be associated with the above serious symptoms, but can also increase the student’s volatility and unpredictability.
If the crisis is life threatening (for example, the student has threatened to harm self or others):
- Call ext. 5555 and convey that this is a life-threatening situation and that appropriate assistance is needed. Emergency red phones are located throughout the college.
- If others are present, take a break from class and ask a student or coworker to contact the police. Do not seclude yourself if the student seems unstable. While you don’t want to embarrass a student who is having problems, you also don’t want to place yourself in jeopardy without help.
- Be calm, clear and concise.
- After the situation has been resolved, document the situation and notify your dean so that follow-up can be initiated.
If you feel threatened or intimidated:
- Pick up a red phone or dial ext. 5555 and convey that you need help immediately.
- If you cannot access a phone (i.e., student is having a seizure, is suicidal, is blocking your path), calmly designate another individual to immediately call the campus Police Department at (708) 974-5555.
- Wait for assistance.
- Keep a safe distance and don’t move toward the student. Do not attempt an intervention. Intervening at this point may trigger physical acting-out behavior and jeopardize your safety and the safety of others around you.
- After the situation has been resolved, notify your dean so that follow-up can be initiated.
- Contact the Counseling Center at ext. 5722 if you would like to talk to a counselor about what happened. Situations such as these can have an impact on you and you may need some support to sort it out.
Moraine Valley Police Department
24 Hours a Day/ 7 Days a Week
VI. From the Center for Disability Services
The Center for Disability Services (CDS) serves over 600 Moraine Valley students with a documented disability. Moraine Valley and the Center for Disability Services are in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504. Based on these laws, the college and the CDS provides reasonable accommodations to “qualified individuals” to ensure equal access to programs, services and activities unless it would pose an undue hardship or burden.
What is a Reasonable Accommodation?
- A modification or adjustment to an entrance/course requirement, the classroom environment, or the way things usually are done.
What Are Not Reasonable Accommodations?
- Fundamentally altering a course requirement
- Violent or abusive behaviors
- Non-adherence to policy and procedure that is consistent with the educational program
Individuals with disabilities are people first and experience similar everyday problems as counterparts without disabilities.
- Separate out what is a “disability” and what is not.
- Treat all individuals the same; do not make the disability the focus of interactions.
- Hold students with disabilities to the same standards as those without disabilities.
- Accommodations are to “level” the playing field, not to give an advantage to the student.
A student with a disability should comply with the Code of Student Conduct just as all other students are expected to do. Students with disabilities may exhibit the same signs of distress as their peers. If there is reason to believe that a student with a disability is in distress, then the same procedure should be followed like with all other students.
The Center for Disability Services
Building S, Room S114
Monday-Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Friday summer hours: 8 a.m.-Noon