Disruptive Student Behavior

National trends show an increase in disrespectful, disruptive and even violent student behavior on campuses. Florida Tech is not immune from these national trends and the number of reported incidents of disrespectful and disruptive behavior has increased in recent years. This brochure is designed to help faculty and staff identify problem behaviors, determine the appropriate course of action, and get the help they need to address the problems.

Prevention

Faculty members encounter fewer problems with student behavior when they clearly state the importance of respectful classroom behavior and clarify their expectations.

At the first class meeting, it would be helpful to explain that:

  • Florida Tech expects students to maintain high standards of personal integrity and to respect the rights, privileges and property of other people.
  • While the university environment is a place where the free exchange of ideas and concepts can take place in an atmosphere that allows for debate and disagreement, all classroom behavior and discourse should reflect the values of respect and civility. Students and faculty both share the responsibility to maintain an appropriate learning environment that reflects these values. Students have the right to learn and the responsibility to participate in the learning process.
  • Classroom disruption by students constitutes a serious breach of university behavioral expectations. Faculty members will respond directly to behaviors that are disruptive to the academic environment, and they may require students to leave the class until the concerns are resolved.

 

Faculty or Staff Response

Individual faculty or staff members are encouraged to provide a first-level response to problem student behavior unless they feel threatened or the behavior warrants more serious attention by the university. Experience indicates that despite the common fear that responding to problem behaviors will escalate the trouble, the opposite is true. Concurrently, other students have expressed gratitude when faculty members respond quickly and effectively to problem behaviors.

An individual student exhibiting inappropriate behavior should be approached for a private conversation whenever possible. The conversation should include a description of the problem behavior, why it is a problem, expectations of future behavior and the specific consequence(s) of continued problems. One possible consequence would be a formal university disciplinary hearing. In any case, it is important to write a letter to the student summarizing the conversation and to send a copy to the dean of students.

Specific recommendations that have proven to be helpful:

  • Set the expectations and the tone for your classroom.
  • Respond immediately to problem behaviors before they increase.
  • Consult and seek advice when needed.
  • Document problem behaviors in writing.
  • Keep interactions with the student calm and respectful.
  • Follow through with stated consequences if problem behavior continues; failure to follow through encourages the continuation of undesirable behavior.

 

Consultation

Many faculty and staff members generally find it helpful to consult with the Office of the Dean of Students, the director of Academic Support, or Counseling and Psychological Services, prior to confronting problem behavior. Any of the following individuals will be able to assist you:

Rodd Newcombe                                                      Academic Support Director
ext. 7110
newcombe@fit.edu

Rodney Bowers                                                        Dean of Students Associate Provost for Student Affairs
ext. 8080                                                                                                                                                                                                               
rbowers@fit.edu

Robyn Tapley                                                           Director of Counseling and Psychological Services
ext. 8050
rtapley@fit.edu

During early consultation, the dean of students can check disciplinary records to determine if there is a prior pattern of problem behaviors. This information is useful in determining how to handle the problem. (This is also why it is important, when handling problem behaviors internally, to send copies of any follow-up documentation to the dean of students.)

In summary, if faculty or staff members have any concerns about how to respond to a particular situation, they should feel free to ask for help.

Formal Referral to the University Disciplinary System

Most problem behaviors can be effectively managed by individual faculty or staff who respond quickly and clearly to students who are creating problems. However, there are circumstances when a student does not respond appropriately and the behavior does not change. If this occurs, there are a number of remedies available through contact with one of the individuals listed in this brochure. Through the university disciplinary system, coordinated by Doug Nolder, the associate dean of students, a student may be prohibited from returning to class, pending the outcome of a formal hearing.

The purpose of the disciplinary hearing is to discuss all of the facts in the case and to determine if a student has violated the code of conduct. If the student is found responsible for violating the University Code of Conduct, the action taken could range from a disciplinary warning to expulsion from the university. In addition, educational requirements, such as referrals for psychological counseling, may be made. Disciplinary decisions are intended to take into consideration the needs of both the campus community and those of the accused student.

Immediate Threat

In the event of an immediate threat to any member of the campus community or to university property, Campus Security should be contacted immediately by calling (321) 674-8111. Campus Security officers will be able to assist faculty and staff in defusing the situation or detaining the individual(s) until emergency response personnel arrive on the scene.

Summary

Disruptive student behavior has a negative impact on everyone who witnesses it. Being proactive and directly confronting disruptive behavior can enhance student learning. Please don't hesitate to use all the resources that are available to you.

For additional information, contact CAPS to obtain a copy of the brochure, titled "Recognizing Students at Risk."

SA-339-700