Distressed Students

Distressed students have behavior that develops over time. Their behavior interferes with their ability to participate in class and complete course assignments. While each person is different, here are some behaviors typically exhibited by students in distress:

  • Obvious changes in mood or behavior
  • Threatening behavior and/or stalking
  • Extreme restlessness, agitation
  • Change in grades, class attendance, work habits
  • Obvious anxiety, panic or avoidance behavior
  • Direct or indirect expressions of hopelessness/suicidal thoughts
  • Disturbing material submitted in classwork, papers, exams
  • Evidence of self-inflicted harm: scars, cuts, burns, etc.
  • Poor hygiene/inappropriate clothing
  • Bizarre or unusual behavior or speech
  • Submitting work that deteriorates in quality
  • Withdrawal and/or avoidance from participation, increased anxiety around exams or deadlines, difficulty working in teams
  • Loss of contact with reality (seeing/hearing things that do not exist)
  • Tardiness and excessive absences inconsistent with their prior history

Disruptive Students

Disruptive behavior is behavior that interferes with the learning environment as well as university functions or activities. This behavior prohibits faculty and staff from performing their duties and is not tolerated at this university. The persistence, severity, and nature of the behavior are key factors in determining if it is disruptive. While the range of disruptive behavior may vary between individuals, there are a few examples:

  • Talking when others are speaking
  • Verbal badgering, frequent interruptions
  • Cursing or using derogatory and demeaning language
  • Monopolizing class time or discussions
  • Refusal to heed written or oral directions
  • Stalking
  • Verbal or physical threats
  • Excessive noise-making
  • Physical aggression to people or property
  • Refusal to comply with faculty or staff direction
  • Loud and/or erratic behavior
  • Persistent and unreasonable demands for attention
  • Actions that intimidate others
  • Threats of physical assault
  • Romantic or obsessive behavior

How to Respond to Disruption

  1. Address it immediately. This behavior should not be ignored because it will give way to more disturbances more often. Some disturbances may involve anger, during this time it is important to know that the peak time of anger is typically 20-30 seconds. Although this may seem like a lot of time, it is best to ‘wait it out’ before progressing. Remain calm, courteous, and direct in your conversation with the student and inform the student that the behavior is inappropriate.
  2. Have a proper conversation with the student. If the disturbance happened in front of the classroom, a private conversation should be held with the student. Offer to speak with the student outside the classroom or in your office space. During this time, give the student the opportunity to speak and be heard. Utilizing active listening is key during this conversation. This conversation is also a chance for you as a staff or faculty member to set behavioral boundaries and expectations with the student.
  3. Take notes and keep a timeline of events pertaining to the student’s behavior. It is important to document each incident as soon as possible to ensure accuracy. Be sure to include date, time, location, and a detailed review of what occurred.

When to take Immediate Action

Depending on the nature of the disruption, you may need to contact emergency authorities.

Contact the Department of Public Safety (DPS) at (713) 313- 7000/7001 if the student: 

  • Threatens to injure, harm, or kill themselves or others
  • Reports or initiates a bomb scare
  • Threatens to possess a firearm
  • Refuses to leave the classroom after being asked to leave

Referring a Student

If you have taken the necessary steps in addressing disruptive behavior and the behavior is in violation of the Student Code of Conduct, you can refer the student to the Office of Student Conduct. If you are unsure if the behavior violates any policy feel free to contact the office at (713) 313-1038, we will be happy to discuss. When referring to a student, please include the date, time, location, and a detailed review of what occurred. If possible, please have students who have witnessed the behavior to write a statement of what they have witnessed. You can report any incident to the office at the following link: