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Disruptive Behavior Action Plan

If you have identified disruptive behavior by a student, the next step is to identify the level of severity of the issue and then take appropriate action. The level of concern is not directly related to a specific behavior (i.e., drinking in class, using cell phone), but more so with the impact on the teaching and/or learning environment.

Identify Level of Issue:

Lower Concern

The first level, which is the least serious encompasses any situation that can be handled informally between you and the student, leading to a prompt resolution (i.e., disrespectful tone, inappropriate language, inappropriate use of electronics, etc.).

Moderate Concern

The second level involves an ongoing problem, or a more serious incident in the classroom (i.e., challenge to authority, verbal confrontation, persistent refusal to adhere to classroom policies, etc.).

Heightened Concern

The third, and most serious, level is reached when there is immediate danger of some kind (i.e., threats of violence), or persistent disruptive behavior despite prior intervention (i.e., violating an established behavioral agreement).

Action Steps:

Lower Concern

  • In most cases, it’s best not to address the behavior in front of the class. Ask the student to stay after class. Respectfully ask the student to end the behavior. Clearly state the observable behavior, why that behavior is not appropriate, and how the student should conduct themselves in the future. Example Statement:

“During today’s class discussion, you spoke in great length about your position on X and other students didn’t have the opportunity to share. Although you are very passionate about this subject matter, it’s important for each student to have equal time to talk since 10% of the final grade is participation. I want you to continue participating and limit your comments to allow others time to talk. Please come talk to me if you find it difficult to express your thoughts during the allotted time and we can set aside time during office hours to explore class concepts one-on-one.” (See guidelines on meeting with disruptive students in section below.)

  • Provide student with support resources if appropriate.

Moderate Concern

  • Let the student know they must stop the behavior or leave class immediately. It can be difficult to know what to say in this situation. Be clear, direct and respectful. A statement may look like the following:

“In order to maintain a learning environment in which everyone can learn, I need to ask you to change/stop doing X (or leave the classroom).”

  • If the student refuses to stop the behavior and refuses to leave, you might say “It is in the best interest of the class for you to leave. If you do not do so immediately, I will need to contact campus security.” If you are not comfortable calling security, you should dismiss class and report the incident to campus security, your department chair, and the Office of the Dean of Students.
  • If you ask the student to leave class, they must meet with you as soon as possible in order to return to class. This meeting needs to be prompted by you and is best arranged via email and scheduled for a later date outside of class time. This should be done in accordance with university Policy 2050, including a notification to the Office of the Dean of Students.
  • During the scheduled meeting, help the student create a success plan with agreed upon expectations for future classroom behavior (See Email Communications for an example). If you’re concerned about your own safety, don’t meet with the student alone. Consult with your department chair, a representative from the Office of the Dean of Students or Public Safety to determine the best way to address your safety concerns.
  • After meeting with the student, follow up via email (example email provided in Email Communications section) outlining the behavior, the rules that were violated, and the success plan created. This is a written warning.
  • The written warning should also include notice that subsequent violations of the classroom rules will result in referral to the Office of the Dean of Students office for processing under university Policy 2020, Student Code of Conduct.

Heightened Concern

  • If there is an immediate dangerous/threatening situation, call 911. Please review  the Threatening Behaviors and Threatening Behaviors Action Plan sections for more information on how to respond to threatening behavior.
  • Provide any available documentation of the disruptive behavior(s) and a detailed written statement to the Office of the Dean of Students.
  • Notify department chair or dean of the situation and seek removal of the student from class in accordance with university Policy 2050 if appropriate. Guidance on implementing Policy #2050 can be provided by the Office of the Dean of Students.

Please know that developing a plan that will address the disruptive or otherwise demanding behavior may involve a variety of other support (such as helpers from your department, counseling, or other student services) to adequately address the issue in your class and broader assistance for the student and others impacted by their behavior.

Guidelines for Meeting with a Student

The meeting is an opportunity for the student to understand the inappropriateness of his or her behavior and to develop strategies for continuing successfully in the class.
Important notes for setting up meetings:

  • If you are unable to meet with the student for logistical reasons (e.g., online or remote course), arrange a phone call or Skype/Google Hangout session. Whenever possible, avoid conducting the meeting via email to avoid assumptions around tone and intent.
  •  It is important to be aware of your own tolerance level and what you can offer the student on any particular day and time. If you are relatively free from other responsibilities at that moment, you may feel more able to respond.
  • If the same student has returned for help day after day or your own stress level is high for whatever reason, it might be advantageous to ask a colleague or supervisor for help. With the help, it can sometimes be easier to set boundaries, to check lists of resources, to get another opinion on the level of the student’s distress, and to not carry the burden of a student whose needs are expressed in demanding or time-consuming ways.

During the meeting:

  •  Remain calm. This may be difficult if the student is agitated or confrontational, but your calm and reasoned response will best control the meeting.
  • Communicate clearly and directly with the student about the limit of your scope of work and availability. Set limits with the student.
  •  Let the student talk. Show empathy and ask for clarification when needed.
  • Do not take behavior or remarks personally. Disruptive behavior usually results from other life problems or a general academic frustration.
  • Be specific and identify the inappropriate behavior the student has exhibited. Describe the behavior, don’t focus on the person. Explain why the behavior is a problem.
  • Review the classroom rules and expectations as communicated on the course syllabus.
  • Ask questions and summarize what you hear the student saying.
  • Focus on areas of agreement between you and the student. Conclude by summarizing any resolution and articulating expectations and the behavior that is required for the future.
  • Follow up with an email (see Email Communications section) summarizing your conversation and share any relevant resources with the student.

Disorderly Conduct:

Sometimes, but not always, moderate and heightened level of disruptive behaviors constitute disorderly conduct. The Boise State University Student Code of Conduct (Policy 2020) Section 4/L states that disorderly conduct may include, but is not limited to:

  • Conduct that a reasonable person would find offensive such as disorderly, disruptive, lewd, indecent, obscene, and/or profane behavior
  • Disturbing the peace, disrupting, obstructing (or assisting or encouraging another person to do so) any university activity, including but not limited to teaching, research, administration, athletic, recreation events, guest speakers and other presentations, cultural events, and any behavior that has a substantial negative effect on a university living and/or learning environment and/or interferes with the rights of other members of the university community
  • Intentional or reckless obstruction that unreasonably interferes with freedom of movement for either pedestrians or vehicles on university premises or at university-sponsored or supervised functions

An instructor who believes a student may be violating this section of the Student Code of Conduct may implement university Policy 2050 to remove the student from class as outlined in the “Heightened Concern” Action Step above.

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