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Office of the VP for Student Life

Disruptive behavior in the classroom

UW classrooms and labs are spaces of rich exploration, rigorous debate and rewarding academic pursuits. However, on occasion, students may display behaviors that are disruptive to the teaching and learning environment. The purpose of this resource is to provide faculty with an understanding of their rights, responsibilities and available support for creating and maintaining productive learning spaces.

Examples of disruptive behavior include:

  • Aggression toward other students or faculty/TAs
  • Threats of violence
  • Unyielding argument or debate
  • Yelling inside or outside of the classroom
  • Untimely talking/laughing/crying
  • Snoring in class
  • Engaging in content on a laptop that others find disruptive
  • Listening to music at a volume disruptive to others

Your rights as a faculty/teaching assistant

Under the Student Conduct Code WAC 478-120-020(5), an instructor has the authority to exclude a student from any class session in which that student is being disruptive. If the student persists in the behavior, please contact the dean of the college or school and report the matter immediately.

  • Faculty has the right to remove students from the class session in which they are disruptive.
  • Faculty does not have the ability to remove a student permanently. A student can only be removed from a class indefinitely through the student conduct process.
  • For interim actions, contact the Vice President for Student Life.

Safety and wellbeing are paramount concerns at the UW. The Division of Student Life and the University provide many resources to support faculty who are faced with disruptive classroom behavior. For your reference, following is a quick guide highlighting appropriate resources based on displayed behavior.

 

Threatening Behavior

Most students engage with faculty and teaching staff in a productive and collaborative manner. As Faculty/instructors, you have a lot of authority with your interactions with students.  On the rare occasion however in which a student acts in a threatening manner, Student Life recommends the following:

 

Direct Threat

If the student has made a direct threat that indicates imminent bodily harm or injury, please call 911 immediately.  If the threat occurs on campus, ask to be connected with UWPD to respond to your location.  Take steps to protect yourself and your students by leaving the area.  Other resources which can be helpful in safety planning and responding are Safe Campus at 206-685-SAFE and Community Standards & Student Conduct at 206-685-6194.

 

Indirect Threat

If the student has become oppositional, argumentative, disrespectful or makes indirect threats, such as “You better watch out”, you should establish clear boundaries and limits regarding their behavior. You may ask the student to leave the area you are in. Tell the student that their behavior is not appropriate and that your interaction with them is at an end.  If they do not leave the area when you ask them to do so, please call UWPD for assistance.  You can also call Safe Campus at 206-685-SAFE and Community Standards and Student Conduct at 206-685-6194 to assist with safety planning and responding to student behaviors.

Types of concern and associated resources

Safety of the classroom, the campus community or an individual student

Has a student made threats of violence to others or self, displayed a weapon(s), demonstrated aggressive agitation towards students, faculty or TAs? Does the disruptive student refuse to leave after being asked to do so? Does the behavior cause fear, jeopardize safety, or warrant emergency intervention?

Campus resource and contact info

UW Police Department (UWPD)

From campus phones, call 911 to be connected to the UWPD. From other phones, such as cell phones, dial 911 and request the dispatcher to transfer you to the UWPD.

UWPD provides emergency response and incident management and will remove the student from the classroom at faculty’s request.

Ongoing agitation or disruption that disturbs teaching and learning

A student engages in yelling, unyielding debate, purposeful misbehavior, entering or exiting the classroom disruptively, unproductive criticism, untimely talking/crying/laughter, etc.  Other students approach you about the behavior of a classmate who is impeding their ability to learn. You would like the behavior addressed under the Student Code of Conduct.

Campus resource and contact info

Community Standards and Student Conduct (CSSC)
Responds and investigates alleged violations of the Student Code of Conduct. CSSC will consult with faculty on the disruptive behavior and take appropriate action. This can include assisting with setting boundaries, developing classroom plans and communicating with the student. CSSC makes referrals to other areas in Student Life to assist students and faculty.

CSSC:
206-685-6194, cssc@uw.edu

Feelings of concern for a student’s wellbeing

You notice changes in appearance or hygiene, mood or energy levels; the student expresses hopelessness, or discloses distressing life situations, or other students approach you regarding the wellbeing of a classmate. You are worried about the student and believe he or she would benefit from additional support and/or you would like some coaching on how to speak to the student yourself.

Campus resource and contact info

Health and Wellness – Provides support and case consultation for students experiencing personal hardship, concerns or questions about alcohol and other drugs, and/or suicidal thoughts or attempts as well as support and advocacy for students dealing with sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking and harassment. Health and Wellness can consult and coach faculty and staff on interactions and referrals with students in these areas.

Health and Wellness: 206-543-6085, livewell@uw.edu

Counseling Center – Provides personal counseling, assessment, referral and crisis intervention services to currently enrolled students. The Counseling Center also consults with faculty and staff to assist students in accessing mental health support.

Counseling Center: 206-543-1240

Concerning behavior which makes you or others feel afraid

You perceive or receive reports of behavior that causes fear and threatens or indicates the possibility of violence toward yourself or others. You believe the situation requires prompt attention but emergency intervention is not necessary.

Campus resource and contact info

SafeCampus – Preventing violence, including self-harm, is a community effort. SafeCampus is the central reporting point and the coordinating unit for violence mitigation activities across the UW. Contact SafeCampus if you notice behaviors of concern.

SafeCampus:
206-685-7233, safecampus@uw.edu