Dealing with a Disruptive Student - University of Houston
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Dealing with a Disruptive Student

Disruptive behavior should not be ignored.
Remain calm. Remind yourself that it is not about you; it is about the situation. Tell the individual that such behavior is inappropriate and there are consequences for failing to improve the disruptive behavior. Many disruptive situations involve anger. Recognize that the period of peak anger usually lasts 20-30 seconds. Although this may seem like an eternity in the throes of the situation, often it is best to “wait it out” before progressing.

The DOs

  • DO listen through the anger. Use active listening.
  • DO acknowledge the feelings of the individual.
  • DO allow the person to vent and tell you what is upsetting him or her. Use silence to allow the person to talk it out.
  • DO set limits. Explain clearly and directly what behaviors are acceptable. “I care about what you are saying, but I need you to lower your voice before we continue to talk.”
  • DO be firm, steady, consistent, and honest.
  • DO focus on what you can do to help resolve the situation.
  • DO make personal referrals. Give a name of an individual, when possible, and call ahead to brief the person.
  • DO report the behavior to the police and/or DOS office.

The DON'Ts

  • DON’T interrupt, particularly during the first 20-30 seconds of peak anger.
  • DON’T minimize the situation.
  • DON’T get into an argument or shouting match.
  • DON’T blame, ridicule, or use sarcasm.
  • DON’T touch.
  • DON’T ignore warning signs that the person's emotions are escalating.
  • DON’T ignore your limitations

Take Immediate Action if the Student:

University of Houston Police Department (713) 743-3333 -or- 911 from a campus phone line.

  • Threatens to injure, harm, kill or risk the safety of self or others
  • Acts in a frightening or threatening manner
  • Refuses to leave the classroom after being asked to leave
  • Reports or initiates a threat or bomb scare

Consult for Advice if the Student:

  • Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS)
    • Appears to be out of touch with reality
    • Reports suicidal thoughts or actions, depression, hopelessness, anxiety, or difficulty dealing with grief
  • Equal Opportunity Services (EOS)
    • Reports having been a victim of a stalking
    • Reports sexual assault or relationship violence
    • Indicates experiencing hate crimes, bias, or discrimination
    • Reports any Title IX concerns
  • Justin Dart, Jr. Student Accessibility Center
    • Is having academic difficulty due to physical, psychological, or learning disability
    • Indicates a need for disability accommodations
  • Dean of Students Office
    • Acts significantly out of character
    • Acts in a way that causes alarm
    • Displays unhealthy or dangerous patterns of behavior
    • Reports having been a victim of hazing or other crime
    • Exhibits behavior that substantially impairs, interferes, or obstructs orderly processes and functions of the university
    • Exhibits behavior that deliberately interferes with instruction or office procedures
    • Exhibits behavior that is lewd or offensive
    • Exhibits behavior that breaches the peace
    • Reports financial difficulty due to hardships
  • Student Outreach and Support (SOS)
    • Reports difficulty due to a recent hospitalization
    • Needs assistance transitioning back to the university after an emergency