Disruptive Students Behavior:
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Disruptive Students Behavior

Angry StudentIn my teaching experience, I have encountered at least one instance of disruptive behavior in the classroom every single semester. Many times these are innocent acts of frustrated, immature, or troubled students. Some students are simply unfamiliar with the standards of conduct and don't know how to act in a college classroom. Others have inadequate coping skills and take their frustration out on their classmates and/or their instructor. Your job as an educator is to provide a safe and effective learning environment for everyone. If the behavior of one student threatens that safety and effectiveness for you or your students, you need to take action. Often a simple reminder to the offending student will suffice. However, there are times when more serious action is called for.

Guidelines for Handling Disruptive Student Behavior

The following is from a flyer (modified for this lesson) that outlines the guidelines for handling disruptive student behavior at SBCC. In it you will find answers to:

What is disruptive behavior?

According to the Standards of Student Conduct, disruptive behavior can include, but is not limited to, the following:

  • Verbal abuse

  • Physical abuse or threats

  • Willful damage to personal or college property

  • Use of drugs and alcohol on college premises

  • Inordinate demands for time and attention

  • Harassment

  • Disruption of a classroom, administrative or campus activity

The disruptive student is one who, through his/her behavior or attitude, interferes with academic or administrative activity on campus.
Disciplinary action is taken on the basis of explicit behavior or attitude which is in violation of the Standards of Student Conduct, regardless of the cause.

What action should you take if you encounter disruptive behavior?

Disruptions which are minor annoyances and non-threatening are expected to cease upon the first request. Repeated behavior will be handled according to the guidelines set forth in the Standards of Student Conduct. Note: These guidelines are applicable to the classroom or to any administrative or campus-related activity.

Inform the disruptive student:

  1. of the appropriate standard of behavior

  2. that the disruptive behavior will not be tolerated because it is interfering with the educational process or functioning of a campus activity or depriving others of the right to learn, the right to service, and/or the right to feel safe

  3. that he or she will be reported to the Dean of Educational Programs in CC-217 if the behavior continues. This verbal notice must be followed up in writing with a copy given to the student at the next class meeting.

If the behavior continues:

  1. You have the right to ask the student to leave your class for the day of removal and the next class meeting.

  2. If the student refuses to vacate the premises, call Security for assistance at ext. 2264 during the day and ext. 2400 after 4:30 p.m.

  3. Student conduct templates are available at this site. (link to templates directory)

  4. Look up appropriate action in the Standards of Student Conduct

You must inform the Dean of Educational Programs of your actions immediately in writing, providing him/her with copies of any warning notices you have given to the student.

How should you report an incident of disruptive behavior? Who should you call?

  1. Call Security at ext. 2264 days or ext. 2400 after 4:30 p.m. if the student appears threatening or dangerous.

  2. Call the Dean of Educational Programs at ext. 2278 days (in the evening, dial "Operator" and ask for extension 2638) if the student's behavior is disruptive but there is no imminent danger (e.g., the student stopped the disruptive behavior upon request, or the student is being referred for disciplinary action).

  3. Call Student Health Services and Wellness at ext. 2298 from 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. M-Th. and 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Fri. if you suspect a student may be emotionally troubled, you feel other students who were involved in or witnessed the incident need support, if you need advice on interventions or would like to make a referral on behalf of a student. Referrals should be accompanied by a Student Referral Form available from the Counseling Office, room SS-135.

It is important that incidents of disruptive behavior be reported so that the college can monitor and utilize appropriate intervention to minimize the occurrences of disruptive behavior. When referring or reporting disruptive behavior, be specific, concise and describe observable behavior. Avoid evaluate diagnosis. All verbal reports must be followed up in writing. Referrals should be accompanied by a Student Referral Form available from the Counseling Office, room SS-135, and the Dean of Educational Programs, Room SS-260.

What happens after a disruptive incident is reported?

The Dean of Educational Programs at ext. 2278 handles disciplinary matters. The disciplinary action taken will depend on the seriousness and complexity of the disruption. Disciplinary sanctions range from reprimands to expulsion. The individual reporting the incident will be kept informed of the disposition of the case.

SBCC's Disruptive Student Response Team

In addressing the issue of disruptive student behavior, SBCC has established a Disruptive Student Response Team to ensure a quick response to a disruptive incident, rapid dissemination of information and the development of effective intervention strategies. Members of the Response Team include:

Ron Baker, Dean, Educational Programs (ext. 2278) (baker@sbcc.net)
John DaFoe, Security Director (ext. 2264) (dafoe@sbcc.net)
Jack Friedlander, Executive Vice President Educational Programs (ext. 2579) (friedlan@sbcc.net)

Other Resources

As you can see, disruptive behavior can range from excessive talking in class to violent behavior. You can find more information through the Student Health Services & Wellness Program. They are a great resource for you and your students to help understand and deal with behavioral problems. The following is an example of the types of literature they have available for you. It addresses 'red flags' for potentially violent behavior and steps to take.

SBCC Student Health Services & Wellness
Early Warning Signs of Potentially Violent Behavior

    1. Direct, veiled, or conditional threats of harm

    2. Intimidation of others

    3. History of violent behavior

    4. Carrying a concealed weapon or flashing a weapon to test reactions

    5. Extreme interest in weapons

    6. Fascination with incidents of violence

    7. Paranoid behavior

    8. Moral righteousness

    9. Bizarre thoughts

    10. Expression of extreme desperation

    11. Unable to take criticism

    12. Disregard for the safety of others

    13. Being a loner

Communicating to defuse violence


  • Project calmness. Move and speak slowly, quietly and confidently.

  • Be respectful.

  • Be an empathetic listener. Encourage the person to talk and listen carefully and patiently (this can be hard when a person is ranting). Focus your attention on the person

  • Sit close to the door. Don't get right in front of the person. Maintain a relaxed posture.

  • Acknowledge the person's feelings. Indicate that you see the person is upset. You can validate the feeling without condoning negative acts. (I understand you feel______, and it's not ok to _______.)

  • Form some bond/connection.

  • Use delaying tactics to help person calm down. (Offer a drink of water in a paper cup)

  • Be reassuring and point out choices. Break problems into smaller, more manageable pieces

  • Call Security if you feel threatened at Ext. 2400

Do Not:

  • Be cold, apathetic, condescending, robotic (going strictly by the rules without human factor)

  • Reject all of the person's demands from the start

  • Pose in challenging stances (hands on hips, crossing arms). Try to avoid physical contact, finger-pointing, staring, invading space.

  • Make sudden movements that could be seen as threatening. Remember to move and speak slowly.

  • Challenge, threaten, belittle or dare individual

  • Criticize or act impatiently toward agitated individual

  • Attempt to bargain with a threatening individual

  • Make false statements or promises you can't keep

  • Downplay the seriousness of the situation

  • Try to focus on technical or complicated information when emotions are high

  • Take sides or agree with distortions

Take Heart! Dealing with behavior problems is part of our job. Fortunately, it is a very (very, very) small part. Just keep in mind that perhaps the worst thing to do is to 'ignore it until it goes away'. It never does on its own!

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