Resources for Faculty and Staff

Preventing Misconduct in the Classroom

Just as instructors determine academic standards and evaluate student performance according to those standards, it is recommended that instructors determine social conduct standards for their classroom (no chatting in class, reading newspapers, sleeping, using cell phones, etc). For courses with online components, it is recommended that expectations regarding electronic communications be included.

It is recommended that instructors provide specific information in the syllabus regarding classroom expectations in addition to a reference to the Student Code of Conduct. This not only sends a message to potentially disruptive students but also communicates to all other students that the instructor will ensure a classroom environment free from disruption.

It is important for instructors to address undesirable behaviors at first sight. This will prevent future outbreaks from the student and hopefully keep a calm and positive learning environment for both faculty and students.

Use direct communication with the student causing the difficult behavior. Use “I” statements and be clear about points of agreement, about purpose, and about needs. Have body language that shows you support them and that they have your full attention. An example of powerful sentence structure could be, “You are doing (list behavior and actions you have seen). If this behavior continues, I will ask you to leave the class for the rest of the day.”

Responding to Misconduct in the Classroom

If the oral warning does not remedy the situation and the inappropriate behavior continues:

Step 2:

  • Talk to the student individually after class or ask them to schedule a meeting for a later time. If it is not possible to talk with the student individually prior to the next class period, contact the student by phone, email or letter.
  • During the discussion with the student, clarify the expectations for classroom conduct and seek the student’s cooperation in meeting those expectations. Provide a written warning because of the student’s failure to correct the behavior following the oral warning. Provide a copy of the written warning to the student.
  • Indicate in the written warning that further incidents may result in the student being asked to leave class for the day and that if such response is necessary, a report will also be submitted to the Vice President for Student Services (VPSS) for further disciplinary action
  • In addition to the written warning, document all other information relevant to the student’s misconduct.
  • Provide a copy of the written warning and other documentation to the Division Chair (DC). Also send a copy to the VPSS to be placed on file in the event of continued misconduct in this class or another.

If Step 2 processes do not remedy the situation and the inappropriate behavior continues:

Step 3:

  • If the behavior persists beyond the written warning or is so disruptive that immediate action is necessary, ask the student to leave the class for the remainder of the class period. If the student refuses to leave the class, call the Lake Land College Police Department. If necessary, temporarily adjourn the class and ask another student to call the police department.
  • Document all relevant information.
  • Contact the DC and the VPSS immediately to discuss the situation.
  • Provide a copy of the documentation to the DC and to the VPSS along with the Behavioral Incident Report.

NOTE: Instructors may direct a disruptive student to leave for the remainder of a class period. Longer suspensions or involuntary withdrawals require further disciplinary action through the student disciplinary process and the VPSS. Instructor documentation of the sequential events, adequate warnings, and actions are critical.

Meeting with an Angry or Potentially Threatening Student

Instructors should not meet alone with a student who may be a threat to their personal safety. Instead of asking to meet after class, instructors should schedule a specific appointment so that they have time to prepare for the meeting. Instructors should call a member of the Behavioral Intervention Team for consultation prior to the meeting. They should also alert and confer with their DC and/or colleagues of when the student will be meeting with them and ask one of them to either be on standby or to join in the meeting.

Responding to Students in Distress

If a staff member suspects that a student is suffering from depression or anxiety, they should express their concern to the student and refer them to Counseling Services. Sometimes it is hard to know how to approach the student or what to say to a student who appears to be in distress.

  • If appropriate, invite the student to an office or a private place to talk rather than addressing the issue in a public place or in the classroom.
  • Gain an understanding of why the student is upset. This will help determine if the student is having a bad day or if they need intervention. Start the conversation by saying “If you want to tell me what is upsetting you, I’m here to listen” or a similar conversation starter.
  • Use active listening and repeat back to the student what they just said. Depending on the situation, staff may respond by saying “You sound very upset, what can I do to help?” or “You sound very upset, is it OK if I call a counselor over to talk with you?”
  • If the student’s issue is one the staff member does not feel qualified or comfortable discussing, the staff member should contact Counseling Services. One question to consider is “Is the student’s response in excess of their stressor?” If so, intervention is warranted. Also, when it comes to helping students who are upset, in crisis or simply having a bad day, it is important for staff to evaluate their own comfort level. If staffs feel uncomfortable or that they are entering territory they are not qualified to handle, contact Counseling Services.

Sample Scenarios & Tips

The following examples demonstrate techniques for responding to a student in distress.

Scenario 1

Kari is obviously upset and tearful during class and the instructor asks her to stay after.

Instructor: I noticed you seem very upset. Are you OK? Would you like to talk about it?

Student: My grandmother passed away last week and I am having a really hard time. I really miss her and can’t seem to concentrate on anything.

Instructor: I am so sorry to hear about your grandmother. You must really miss her.

This student is having a normal response to the death of a loved one. The loss is still recent, only a week ago. Loss of concentration and tearfulness are a natural part of the grieving process. If the same scenario occurred and the loss of loved one occurred ten months ago, the staff member might consider referring the student to Counseling Services. Although everyone’s grieving period is different, if the student is still unable to concentrate and is having trouble functioning after ten months, she may need some professional help moving through the stages of grief.

Scenario 2

Bill started out the semester strong, but recently began missing class and not turning in work. The instructor asks him to stay after class to discuss his progress in the class.

Instructor: I noticed that you started out the semester very well, but lately you’ve been missing class and assignments. I’m concerned about your grade and success in this class.

Student: I’m feeling overwhelmed. I am in four classes and work nights. I’m trying to balance that with my family. I just can’t seem to do anything right.

Instructor: It sounds like you have a lot on your plate right now, between work, school and your family. I think it would be good for you to talk with Counseling Services about how you can begin to relieve some of this stress.

If the student meets with a counselor, they can discuss time management, tutoring, withdrawing from a class or two and the time commitment it takes to be successful in class. Along with the academic issues the counselor and student can also discuss the student’s personal struggles. Maybe they are having problems in their relationship or are experiencing symptoms of depression that warrant a referral to a local community agency.

The common denominator in these scenarios:

  • If a student appears to be struggling, or there is a change from their previous functioning, the staff member should express their concern to the student. It is important to not assume someone else in the student’s life will intervene.
  • It is important to use active listening. This means clarifying and restating what a person just said. This assures the student that staff member is listening and that he/she cares.
  • Staff should assess their own comfort level. Everyone is different. Some instructors might feel comfortable talking for an hour with a student who recently lost a loved one. Others panic at the sight of tears and do not know what to do to help. Staff are encouraged to recognize their own boundaries and refer to Counseling Services when necessary.
  • Counseling Services specializes in helping mentally healthy students through college related stress. They also provide assessment and referral for personal or mental health problems.