Faculty and Staff Resources

Student Development has created a 411 Guide as a means to assist faculty, staff and the college community with assisting students who need support. The information will clarify who to call when a student is in distress, is disruptive or has a disability that needs accommodation.

SCC Q&A on Classroom Disruption

Q.  How should disruptive behavior in the classroom be defined?

A.  We define classroom disruption as behavior a reasonable person would view as being likely to substantially or repeatedly interfere with the conduct of a class. Examples include repeated, unauthorized use of cell phones in the classroom; persistent speaking without being recognized; or making physical threats. 

Q.  How should I respond when a classroom disruption occurs?

A.  Faculty members have broad authority to manage the classroom environment. The faculty member focuses on relevant issues, sets reasonable time limits, assesses the quality of ideas and expressions, and makes sure participants are heard in an orderly manner. Faculty exercises their authority with compassion and self-restraint.

Overall, key factors in responding to apparent disruptive or uncivil behavior are clarity in expectations; courtesy and fairness in responses (making sure students have an opportunity to discuss the incident with you in a timely manner); and progressive discipline, in which students (in less serious cases) are given an opportunity to learn from the consequences of their misbehavior, and to remain in the class.

It’s best to correct innocent mistakes and minor first offenses gently. If you believe inappropriate behavior is occurring, consider a general word of caution, rather than warning or embarrassing a particular student (e.g., a good approach is to say “we have too many private conversations going on at the moment; let’s all focus on the same topic”). If the behavior in question is irritating, but not disruptive, try speaking with the student after class. Most students are unaware of distracting habits or mannerisms, and have no intent to be offensive or disruptive. 

There may be rare circumstances when it is necessary to speak to a student during class about his or her behavior. Correct the student as privately as possible, perhaps in the hallway. Provide the information in a courteous, calm voice, indicating that further discussion can occur after class.

(Adapted from the ASA Law and Policy Report, No 26 Copyright:  ASJA and Gary Pavela: All rights reserved)

Q.  What should I do in the face of persistent disruption?

A.  Current college procedures state that a student who persists in disrupting a class may be directed by the faculty member to leave the classroom for the remainder of the class period.  It is intended that resolution should occur at the lowest possible administrative level. The student should be told the reason(s) for such action, and be given an opportunity to discuss the matter with the faculty member as soon as possible. Prompt consultation should also be undertaken with your supervisor and the academic dean. The academic dean will assist the student and program coordinator/department chair with resolution alternatives, which may include a referral to the dean of student success for an investigation under the Student Conduct, Discipline and Due process procedures.

Q.  What if a disruptive student claims the disruptive behavior is the result of a disability?

A.  The fact that a student may have a disability should not inhibit you from notifying appropriate authorities (including the campus police, as needed) about disruptive behavior.  Students with or without disabilities need to know they must adhere to reasonable behavioral standards.  Setting and enforcing such standards may encourage students with disabilities to seek appropriate accommodations.  Disability claims and accommodation requests should be discussed with Accessibility Services (SC 133).  There is an established procedure students should follow if they have a disability and seek a reasonable accommodation.

Generally, while different rules apply in the elementary and secondary school setting, pertinent federal agencies and the courts have made it clear that an institution of higher education does not have to tolerate or excuse disruptive, violent or dangerous behavior, especially when that behavior interferes with the educational opportunities of others students.  Colleges and universities may discipline a student with a disability for engaging in misconduct if it would impose the same discipline on a student without a disability.

Q.  When should I call the police?

A.  You should call the campus police at X8545 whenever you believe there is any threat of violence or other unlawful behavior including a student’s refusal to leave a class after being told to do so.  You should also call the police in cases of medical emergency, including mental impairment where immediate intervention is required.  Any threat of violence should be taken seriously.  Err on the side of caution and notify the police as soon as you can.

Q.  Will I be liable for defamation if I call the police or refer a student for disciplinary action and it’s later determined I made an honest mistake?

A.  The risk of liability for making such a report is virtually nil.  There are strong public policy reasons to support and protect people who make good faith reports of wrongdoing to appropriate officials, even if those reports later prove to be mistaken. Common law (or statues in some states) gives people who report misconduct to proper authorities a ‘qualified privilege.'  That means they cannot be held liable for defamation unless their report was made in bad faith, with knowledge the information they provided was false or in reckless disregard of its truth or falsity.

Q.  How can I learn about the campus conduct process and what is expected of students?

A.  The student Code of Conduct outlines what is expected of students, as well as the process that the campus follows if it appears a student may have violated those standards of behavior.  While faculty members develop specific guidelines for their classrooms, there are general behavioral guidelines that apply across disciplines and activities at SCC, and extend beyond the walls of the classroom.  

Q.  How does the campus process relate to the criminal process?

A.  The campus conduct process may occur before, during, or after a criminal process for the same behavior.  For example, a student may face campus conduct charges for assaulting another student on campus, and he/she may also face charges in court.  The campus conduct process has the goals of providing education to students while maintaining the campus standards for behavior. The process and the outcomes are often very different than those of the criminal process, whose goal is justice.  If you are a victim of a crime, you may choose to pursue both processes.

Q.  What happens when I make a referral to Student Conduct?

A.  The student conduct officer reviews the referral to see if there may have been a violation of the code.  If so, the student is notified and asked to meet with the conduct officer to discuss the incident.  Most cases are resolved through this meeting.  In serious cases, the case may proceed to a campus hearing.  The complainant will be able to present information in the hearing to the hearing panel, who will decide if the student is responsible for a violation of the code.  If responsible, the hearing panel will also determine the appropriate sanctions.  The student will be able to participate in this process, as he/she has a right to respond to the information in the conduct case.

Q.  What are common sanctions?

A.  Sanctions vary from a warning to expulsion.  More information is available in the Student Code of Conduct.  The most common sanctions are typically warnings and educational conversations, where the student and the conduct officer discuss the incident and the student explores better ways to act in the future.  Other sanctions include:  restitution, probation status, no contact order, reflection paper, and suspension from the campus for a designated period of time.  The goals of sanctions are to help the student learn and succeed, and to also uphold the standards of the St. Charles Community College campus community.

Q.  What kinds of things should I refer to the Behavioral Intervention Team (BIT)?

A.  BIT is an interdisciplinary team that assesses concerning student behavior.  If there is a direct threat, you should call the SCC police at X8545.  BIT assesses behavior and provides early intervention as a form of support and violence prevention.

Q.  How do I refer something to BIT, and what happens when I do?

A.  You can fill out the Student Concern Form or you may also call BIT at 636-922-8111.  The line is staffed during traditional office hours.  Please be sure to include:

•    The name of the individual

•    The student ID number, if you know it

•    A description of the behavior observed

•    Any details related to the incident, including location and course information

•    Any effects/impacts of the behavior

•    Any attempts to address the behavior, and how the individual responded to those

•    Other known information about the individual that might seem relevant

•    Your contact information

A member of BIT will respond to you by the end of the next business day.  Often the BIT member will ask you for more information about the incident and/or individual.  BIT will follow its procedures, which include an initial assessment and determination of any recommended interventions.   You will be kept informed to the extent possible, and you may be called upon to assist with the intervention(s).  

Q.  Will a student know if I referred him/her?

A.  A person may or may not know that you referred him/her to BIT, depending on the circumstances. BIT attempts to keep the referring individual confidential, however, there are times when only you would be aware of the issue. Some information provided may be subject to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) so there is a chance that the person could learn through those means that you referred him/her. If you make a student conduct referral, the student does have the right to know and respond to the information. He/she would be able to know your name as the referring party in most situations. The only exceptions would be in cases of significant personal violence (such as sexual or physical assault) where there is a legitimate fear of retaliation through physical violence.

Q.  What can I do if I don’t feel threatened, but I am still concerned about a student?

A.  Many BIT referrals result in an intervention where a student receives information about his/her behavior and about resources that may be of assistance. You can talk with the student to see if he/she would benefit from a campus or community resource. There are a variety of campus resources available, including:  Academic Advising, Mental Health Counseling, ACE Tutoring Center, Accessibility Services, etc. Ideally, you can help connect a student to one of these resources by informing him/her about them or even walking him/her over to the office. If you are unsure of how to best approach this, feel free to call BIT for assistance or make a BIT referral.  The team will be glad to work with the student.

 Q.  What if I feel ‘creeped out’ by someone?

A.  While there is no law or rule against being creepy or odd, you are not expected to ignore you own feelings. It helps to pause and think about the behaviors that are evoking the reaction in you, not just the personality of the student. Depending on the situation, you can always report it to BIT, Student Conduct, or the police. Sometimes a person has already been referred and your information might help complete an understanding of the person’s current state of mind. While there is not a hard rule about when to report ‘creepy’ behaviors, it is always better to err on the side of caution. If it is a student in your class, it helps to have already built a relationship so that you can better understand the student and assess if the behaviors are new/unusual, or if they are just part of someone’s personality. You are always welcome to call BIT or Student Conduct and consult with someone if you are not sure what to do.

Q.  What confidentiality standards should I follow?

A.  The college will take appropriate disciplinary action in cases of proven classroom disruption. Consequently, you should discuss allegations against named or identifiable students only with individuals who have some role in the disciplinary process. Examples of people who usually have such a role include your program coordinator, department chair, academic dean, the SCC Department of Public Safety and the staff in the dean of student success' office. A general rule to keep in mind is that you should refrain from sharing any personally identifiable information from student education records (like grades, or reports of misconduct) with any person (including a colleague) who has no educational interest in the information. If in doubt, confer with your academic dean, the dean of student success or the registrar.

Q.  What can I know about a student’s conduct or BIT record?

A.  The Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) protect the privacy of student educational records. It does allow for sharing of information within SCC if there is a ‘legitimate educational interest.' This means that if you need the information in order to complete a part of your job responsibilities, you can have access to it. For example, if you refer a disruptive student to conduct, you will need to know the parameters that the student must function within to return to your classroom. However, if a student in your class has a conduct referral for alcohol use and it has nothing to do with your course, you would not need to know that information. If there is a legitimate threat, you would be informed of that as well, but you might not be informed if a student is being investigated or assessed. 

Dean of Student Success: Beth Finders
ADM 1242
636-922-8259
bfinders@stchas.edu

Administrative Secretary: Teresa Drury
ADM 1242
636-922-8536
tdrury@stchas.edu

This guide was adapted from the University of Central Florida, Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities; Harper College, Division of Student Affairs; and Joliet Junior College, Office of the Dean of Students.