Helping a Disruptive Student

Severely troubled or disruptive students exhibit behaviors that signify an obvious crisis and necessitate more immediate intervention. 

Signs of severe trouble or disruption include:

  • Highly disruptive behavior (e.g. verbal hostility, aggression, subversion of team work, disregard for classroom decorum and respectful conduct, etc.)
  • Failure to comply with corrective feedback
  • Inability to communicate clearly (garbled, pressured speech; disorganized, confused, or rambling thoughts)
  • Loss of contact with reality (seeing or hearing things which others cannot see or hear; irrational beliefs or fears that others may be conspiring against them)
  • Stalking behaviors and/or inappropriate communications (including threatening letters, e-mail messages, harassment)
  • Suicidal thoughts and/or threats to harm others (may be communicated orally or in written formats through e-mail, assignments, on social network or academic sites) Learn more at the Jed Foundation’s website.

How to respond to a disruptive student:

  • Rule out the possibility of harm to self or others. Learn more about suicide assessment.
  • When physical safety of student or others is immediate concern or the student acts in a highly irrational or disruptive way, call:
    • University Police Department: 352-392-1111 if the student is located on-campus
    • Alachua County Sheriff or Gainesville Police at 911 if student is located off-campus.
  • If safety is not a concern, attempt to deescalate the situation; offer to find someone to assist in problem-solving such as CWC and/or the Dean of Students Office.
  • Refer the student to an urgent or crisis consultation. Contact:
  • Negotiate a time to meet and work on a solution together.
  • Collaborate with others. Do not try to handle it by yourself. Ask for support.
    • Talk with your supervisor to develop a general plan and specific response. For assistance with such planning, consider consulting with CWC at 352-392-1575 and/or Dean of Students Office at 352-392-1261.
  • Have someone meet with you and the student.
  • Implement the plan. Follow up as needed.