A dangerous student is defined as aggressive and potentially violent. Safety is an immediate concern, and this person could harm himself/herself or others.
A troubled student is one who is dealing with an emotional or psychological crisis.
Examples of concerning behavior may include:
- Drug abuse
- Eating disorders
- Death in the family
- Sexual assault
If you would like to help, you are encouraged to contact the University Counseling Center to discuss options for you or the student of concern. This does not obligate you to your fellow student but often helps answer questions and concerns.
Helping UM Students
Reporting troublesome behavior
Faculty members should report to the Student Intervention Team (SIT) any student behavior that they believe indicates a student may represent a danger to himself/herself or to others. Reports can be sent via email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by telephone (662-915-7248). If the faculty member believes that the threat of danger is imminent, the University Police Department (UPD) should be contacted immediately (662-915-4911).
The SIT receives information from across campus; therefore, faculty members also are encouraged to report problematic, disruptive or antisocial behavior that, although might not trigger serious concerns in isolation, may raise concerns if combined with reports from other sources.
Disruption in the Classroom
Dealing with disruptive students in the classroom
Faculty members have the right to prevent disruptive students from interfering with their right to teach and the right of other students to learn. To this end, they may ask a student to refrain from certain behaviors in the classroom, require a student to meet with them before returning to class, or, when necessary, ask a disruptive student to leave the classroom and not return until meeting with the faculty member. In most situations, behavior that requires a student to be removed from a class should be reported to BIT. As always, faculty members retain the right to file a judicial complaint with the Office of Conflict Resolution and Student Conduct. Please visit their website for complete information about judicial processes.)
Dealing with students who refuse to leave the classroom when asked
If a student is asked to leave a class because of his or her disruptive behavior and the student refuses, the faculty member must determine whether it is possible to continue to conduct class. For example, a faculty member should not feel a need to continue a class session when a student has the potential to become violent or when a student’s behavior has been so insubordinate and disruptive that attempts to continue class will be futile. In this case, a faculty member may dismiss class immediately. If the student appears violent or dangerous, the faculty member should call UPD or ask someone else to place the call. In any case, if class must be dismissed because of the behavior of a student, then BIT should be informed, and the student should not be allowed to return to class until cleared to do so by the dean of the college or school in conjunction with BIT.
Permanently removing a student from a class
Faculty members may not permanently remove a student from a class without permission from the dean of the college or school. Any permanent removal of a student from a class based on nonacademic reasons should be reported to BIT. Although faculty members have a right to teach in a classroom free from disruption, they should bear in mind that removing a student from a class permanently may have a negative impact on the student’s status in other ways, such as affecting financial aid or health insurance eligibility. If it is determined that it is appropriate for a student to be permanently removed from a class, the department head and/or dean of the college or school may wish to work with BIT to find an alternate solution or placement. However, this is not mandatory, and a disruptive student may simply have to “suffer the consequences” of his or her removal from class.
Avoiding confrontation in the classroom
While in the classroom, faculty members are encouraged to avoid confronting angry students in a manner that may escalate the potential for violent behavior. Meeting with an angry student after class is usually preferable to confronting the student in front of a classroom of students. If the faculty member is uncomfortable meeting with the student one-on-one, arrangements should be made to have another faculty member present. Students with severe anger management problems should be reported to BIT to determine if the behavior represents a pattern for the student or an isolated incident.
Potentially Violent Student
Responding to the aggressive or potentially violent student
Aggression varies from threats to verbal abuse to physical violence. It is very difficult to predict aggression and violence; however, the following can be indicators or “red flags” of potential violence:
- Dramatic change in work or study habits
- Decline in personal grooming
- Deterioration in social relationships
- Impulse control problems
- Argumentative; talks about revenge or vengeance
- Grandiose; always has to be right
- Psychotic, delusional
- Emotional expression that doesn’t match context
- Highly disruptive behavior (hostility, aggression, etc.)
- Strange or bizarre behavior indicating a loss of contact with reality
- Suicidal or other self-destructive thoughts or actions: direct or indirect; verbal or in written materials (assignments, journals, emails, etc.)
- Homicidal threats
What should you do when faced with a student in crisis, or one who is aggressive or potentially violent? Immediately:
- Assess your level of safety. If a student expresses a direct threat to himself/herself or others, or acts in a bizarre, highly irrational or disruptive manner, call or have someone call the University Police Department (662-915-4911)
- Ask the student to leave the classroom so that you may speak away from the other students; remain in an open area with a visible means of escape
- Remain calm; you stand a better chance of calming the student if you are calm
- Be respectful, but set clear and firm limits: “I see that you are upset. I need you to sit down. For us to have a conversation, I need you to …”
- Explain to the student the behaviors that are unacceptable
- Be clear and precise in the words you use
- Acknowledge the student’s feelings when appropriate; be reassuring
- Be patient and listen carefully to find out whether the student understands what you are saying. You may have to repeat yourself
- Be concrete. Try to identify a specific issue, and suggest something that can be done to address it. For example, you may suggest that the student accompany you to the Counseling Center
- Use a time-out strategy (i.e., ask the student to reschedule a meeting with you once he or she has calmed down) if the student refuses to cooperate and remains agitated
- Contact SIT (email@example.com) or the University Counseling Center (662-915-3785)
- Staying in a situation in which you feel unsafe
- Meeting alone with the student
- Engaging in a screaming match or behaving in other ways that escalate the situation
- Ignoring signs that the student’s anger is escalating
- Crowding the student; observe his or her sense of personal space
- Treating the person with hostility or condescension
- Criticizing the student
- Making sudden movements
Express your authority with nonverbal cues
- Sit or stand erect
- Smile and make eye contact
- Speak clearly and distinctly
- Touch the student
- Slouch, glare or sigh at the student
After the incident, debrief with department chair or dean, UPD officer and/or a member of SIT.
Responding to Students
Responding to angry or disruptive students
Classroom instructors face many challenges in teaching a diverse student population, and it is expected that students at a university will experience a wide variety of emotions. While many students will be attentive and engaged in classroom activities, others may be daydreaming, bored, distracted or preoccupied. Many instructors have their own effective techniques for working with these students. Those students who come to class under the influence of drugs or alcohol, express extreme anger, or become disruptive, present a greater challenge.
On occasion, a faculty member may recognize that a student is under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Faculty members may handle this situation as they choose, but should be mindful that they have the option to refer the student to the University Judicial Council by sending a written complaint to the Office of the Dean of Students. Those faculty members reporting such behavior should be as thorough as possible in providing details of the incident. The University Counseling Center and the Office of Health Promotion provide support for students with alcohol or drug use problems.
It is more likely that faculty members will encounter students who become angry in class. This anger might derive from differences among classmates, discussion of a controversial topic, or a disputed grade on a paper or test. This is to be expected. Anger in a student is not a violation of the Student Code of Conduct nor is it necessarily a threat to classroom order. When a student’s anger manifests itself into disregard for university authority or disorderly conduct, the faculty member retains the same right to report that student to the Office of the Dean of Students.
Responding to emotionally troubled or difficult students
As a member of the university community, faculty members have ongoing and direct contact with students, which places them in a position to identify students who are struggling with personal and/or academic concerns. How involved faculty members want to be in a student’s problems will likely depend on how they see their role in the university, and their training, experience and personality. These guidelines, their knowledge of the services available and their awareness of their personal attributes can help them become more comfortable with determining when and how they wish to intervene with students.
All students will experience some level of stress. Some will face life events that are more challenging such as significant changes in a relationship, the death of someone close, family crises or physical illness. Others will face severe difficulty with anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, anger, addictions and even psychotic episodes. How students respond to these challenges and how these challenges affect their academic functioning will vary greatly based on their coping abilities and personal situations.