Chadron State College
Chadron State College

Tips for Faculty and Staff in Dealing with Disruptive or Threatening Students

Tips for Faculty and Staff in Dealing with Disruptive or Threatening Students

College faculty and staff sometimes face student behavior that challenges their ability to maintain an effective and safe learning or work environment. The following information offers tips on responding to the disruptive or threatening student. Also, various campus offices can support faculty and staff in dealing with disruptive and/or threatening students. Feel free to consult with the campus resources listed below.

If a student behaves inappropriately with you or makes you feel uneasy, it may be helpful to discuss your concerns with someone else. Your department chair or dean may be a resource, along with other college resources. Sometimes just talking with another professional will clarify the issues and help you resolve the problem.

What is disruptive behavior?

Disruptive behavior is student behavior that interferes with or interrupts the educational process of other students or the normal business functions of the college.

Strategies to Discourage Disruptive Classroom Behavior

While there are some specific tactics for dealing with disruptive students, faculty may prevent some of this behavior from occurring by creating a positive classroom environment at the outset. Some of these tactics may include: Being engaged with students, willingness to listen to student views, communicate classroom expectations and “ground rules,” seek feedback from students, avoid grade surprises, and help students see the value of the course.

Responding to Disruptive Behavior

Even when you have worked hard to create a positive learning environment disruptive behaviors still might arise. Every situation is unique and each instructor has a unique level of tolerance and preferred style for dealing with student behavior. Below are a few tips that may help in dealing with difficult students:

  • Deal with disruptive behavior early, before you get angry or feel threatened.
  • Don’t take students' behavior personally.
  • Decide if you need to deal with the behavior immediately or if it can wait until after class. If it requires an immediate response, verbally request that the student stop the disruptive behavior. If the problem persists, ask the student to leave.
  • If you need to reprimand a student, speak with the student privately if possible.
  • Meet with the student outside the class to discuss the disruptive behavior.

Dealing with a Suspicious Student

Usually these students perceive that they are being mistreated and are apt to lodge complaints. They tend to be tense, cautious, and mistrustful and may have few friends. They often interpret a minor oversight as a personal slight or a sign of prejudice against them, and they overreact to insignificant occurrences. They see themselves as the focal point of everyone’s behavior, and everything that happens has a special meaning for them. Often they are preoccupied with fairness and being treated equally. Disavowing responsibility for their own behavior, they often blame others for their difficulties. Underneath, they may feel inadequate and even worthless.

Threatening or Violent Behavior

Violence in the workplace can take many forms — from a colleague or student who exhibits dangerous or threatening behavior to abusive relationships between partners or family members to random acts of violence by members of the public with no connection to the campus.

When behaviors become intimidating or threatening, you may feel anxious, afraid and concerned for your personal safety. It is important not to manage such a situation alone. Various offices on campus can assist you.

Tips to Deal with Threatening Behavior

It is helpful to:

  • Maintain a posture that is poised, ready to move quickly but not fearful
  • Maintain a tone of voice that is direct and clear, but not threatening
  • Use clear, assertive statements of consequences and repeat as necessary
  • Use eye contact sparingly or only to emphasize a point
  • Avoid gestures, if possible, as they may be interpreted as signs of weakness
  • Avoid physical contact or only have contact if you need to defend yourself
  • Place yourself behind a table or near an exit
  • Leave an unobstructed exit for the person who is threatening

It is not helpful to:

  • Get into an argument or shouting match
  • Become hostile or punitive yourself or make a threat or dare
  • Ignore warning signs such as clenched fists

Dealing with an Ongoing or Evolving Threat

Make sure that you document threatening behavior for possible future reference. Include name of student, date, time and place of incident, describing the incidents in behavioral terms. Use quotes for verbal threats.

Campus Resources

Several CSC offices on campus can assist you in dealing with disruptive, threatening or violent students.

Jon Hansen
VP of EMMSS Enrollment Management, Marketing & Student Services 308-432-6231

The VP of EMMSS can consult with you, meet with a student, and enforce violations of the Student Conduct Code. If a student is disruptive with you, the student is very likely causing problems elsewhere. The VP of EMMSS is able to gather information from a variety of sources and help to decide on a course of action.

Student Code of Conduct:

CSC Health Services: Crites Hall 344, 308-432-6268 (office)

Health Services and counseling hours are from Monday to Friday 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Staff are available to consult with you about students who are of concern to you, perhaps because they appear to be at risk to others or themselves.

Chadron Police Department: *308-432-0510 *Non emergency number.
For emergencies, dial 9-1-1

The Chadron Police Department can dispatch officers to respond to immediate threats. They can work with you to help create a safe office, department or classroom. They also can consult with you regarding persons who are not CSC students.

CSC Campus Resource Officer: 308-432-6040,

The Campus Resource Officer (CRO) is a Chadron Police Officer who is contracted to work full-time on campus during the regular school year. The CRO can also take reports and works closely with several CSC departments, including housing, student affairs, security, etc.

CSC Employee Assistance Program: 1-800-755-7636
The Employee Assistance Program offers no cost, brief, confidential counseling to CSC employees.

We consulted the following resource materials in developing this information:

Assisting the Emotionally Distressed Student: A Guide for Staff and Faculty, University Health Services Counseling and Psychological Services, University of California, Berkeley

Dealing with Disruptive Students in the Classroom, The Office of Student Life, Northern Arizona University

Disruptive and Threatening Student Behavior: Guidelines for Faculty and Staff, Division of Student Affairs, University of Southern California

Managing Difficult Student Behavior: Guidelines for Faculty and Staff, The Office of the Dean of Students & The University Counseling Center, University of Utah

Tips For Dealing With Disruptive Students, Counseling Services, University of Missouri – St. Louis