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AWARE Network

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Responding to Disruptive and Threatening Student Behavior

Guidelines for Faculty and Staff

Adapted from the University of Southern California's document "Disruptive & Threatening Student Behavior" revised Spring 2014 and Washington State University - Spokane Campus document "Classroom Management"

Occasionally, Washington State University experiences threatening and disruptive behavior on the part of some student, a trend paralleled nationally at other campuses. As a faculty or staff member, you may find yourself having to contend with a disruptive or emotionally disturbed student at some point during your career.

Student behaviors that you may encounter range from simple disruptions in class, to ongoing harassment, to verbal and physical threats. The guidelines outlined here are designed to: 1) assist your department in thinking through its response to situations in which students may behave in unusual or unpredictable ways; 2) help you handle an actual threat; and 3) assist you with referral and protocol procedures. When your department has prepared its faculty and staff adequately for such situations, the chances of serious disruption may be lessened.

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Student studying on campus

The majority of students act in an appropriate and respectful manner; however, there are occasions when students will test the limits of acceptable classroom behavior. Student conduct that substantially or repeatedly interferes with the ability of an instructor to teach or the ability of other students to learn may be a violation of Washington State University’s Standards of Conduct for Students and may be addressed in accordance with Community Standards procedures. However, it is rarely enough to simply refer a situation to the Center for Community Standards when a student has caused significant disruption within a department. The department or office involved may also need to address issues related to perceived safety of its faculty and staff, as well as the well-being of other students. 

Please note that a separate policy and protocol exists for handling violence in the workplace. When an employee is threatening or intimidating assistance should be sought from Human Resource Services or from the WSU Police (509) 335-8548.

Washington State University's policy on workplace violence