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Handling Disruptive Students

(Jan. 11 FLEX day repeat performance)

Wednesday, February 27 -- 3:30-5 pm -- S5


  • Ted Alfaro (Student Advocacy)
  • Sunny Clark (Student Health Services)
  • Samuel Edwards (Student Health Services)
  • Andre Barnes (Campus Police)

Participants: 16 faculty and staff


Student Advocacy Office

  • Student Advocacy Office exists to handle student discipline issues either student-to- student or student-to-faculty.
  • Student Advocacy website (includes notice of discipline forms, instructions, and guidelines; academic rules and regulations; codes of student conduct)
  • Suggestions:
    • DOCUMENT disruptive behavior. It's important, even if no disciplinary action is requested, that we have documentation on student conduct issues to assist if future incidents occur.
    • Disciplinary actions can include: holds on registration, removal from class (temporarily or long term); removal from department; removal from campus; removal from college. 
    • Never close door during one-on-ones. Have witnesses to conversations.
    • Have a good syllabus with rules that are enforced. (Refer to expectations that students WILL behave according to college's rules of student conduct. No exceptions.)
    • Students appreciate and need faculty/staff authority to manage classroom.

Campus Police

  • Campus Police website
  • Suggestions:
    • In a situation of immediacy, when you cannot handle the situation effectively on your own or if personal or student safety is an issue, don't doubt, call police. 
    • If it turns out police weren't necessary, they'll let you know that eventually, and nothing lost.
    • Situations usually worsen when not immediately handled -- and disruption in the classroom and to other students actually increases.
    • Calling the police doesn't mean disciplinary action will result. But it does mean cooling off will happen -- and important conversations will start to take place
    • Follow up with documentation sent to Student Advocacy Office.

Student Health Services

  • Personal Counseling (including Mental Health and/or Psychological Counseling) is available through Student Health Services. 
  • Student Health Services website
  • Suggestions:
    • Instructors can refer student -- in emergency situations, helps if we escort student to Health Center or we call and alert Staff
    • Students can drop in for emergency help
    • Students can make an appointment for nonemergency help
    • When a "higher level of care" is required, CCSF can refer students to outside agencies
    • If in doubt, make a referral -- it's the best place to start.
  • Sunny Clark -- take aways:
    • Prevent unwanted/disruptive classroom behaviors:
      • Provide a clear expected student conduct written in the school catalogue and any additional behavioral standards each faculty expect for each student/class/semester;  I recommend this be written in the syllabus and emphasized verbally; this is your evidence when you have to refer them to the appropriate administrator.
      • Make consequences clear and execute reprimand procedures  consistently for everyone
      • Set enforceable standards, execute them early and fairly and the rest of the semester will go easier
      • Listen compassionately, objectively but do not overstep your boundary and try to be a friend
      • Prepare for the worst and keep current on available resources on your campus such as your department chairs, Director of Student Advocacy, Campus Police and Student Health Services Administrator and hope you would not need to use them
      • Remember when you expend lots of energy trying to be nice to the “bad apple” in your class, you are losing credibility with the rest of the class.
      • You are not alone in dealing with disruptive students, use the resources available to you
      • When you refer a student to Student Health or Mental Health Services, the following guidelines might be useful:
        • If it is a mental health emergency, please call 239-3148 and state that you are sending, bringing:  provide a brief description of the situation, and we will do our best to accommodate your student immediately.
        • Once you have made a referral, unless the student signed a release of information with us, it is against the HIPAA regulation  to share any information with you,If you were in a position to make a general mental health/personal counseling referral, please try not to be therapist specific, that may delay your student from obtain appointment
    • From Samuel Edwards -- take aways:
      • Accept and firmly, but compassionately assert authority invested in you as a classroom instructor, ie,  fostering classroom conditions supportive of learning;
      • Reach out to the appropriate campus resources and/or authorities when your authority is ineffective in addressing a disruptive student situation;
      • Intervene early rather than later in the situation of a disruptive student;
      • To the best of one’s ability, avoid establishing adversarial, personalized, and hostile relationships with disruptive students or allowing such students to draw you into their personal crisis;
      • Acknowledge that teaching in the classroom is more challenging today than it was years ago when the academic culture greatly esteemed instructors and learning.


  • Student Advocacy: Develop informal memo instructions for any staff to report on a discipline/student conduct issue.
  • If a student's body odor is 'disruptive,' the only thing we can do is pull the student aside and speak with him/her compassionately ("I/we are supersensitive to odors. We can help you better during close-up work, if you can moderate your cologne, cigarette smell, etc.")
  • Everyone: Don't get pulled into dealing with psychological or social issues. Leave that to others.
  • Everyone: Student rules of conduct are set by college and followed by everyone (they are not a staff member or faculty member's personal whim).
  • It IS harder now than 20 years ago due to changes in respect offered to faculty and authority. But
  • Everyone: We can't always be successful. Be kind and patient with ourselves and each other.
  • Best ways to interact with disruptive students are to:
    • Be compassionate
    • Listen
    • Don't make it personal
    • Take deep breaths
    • "As much as I would love to have you in class righ tnow, I have 39 other student that are having their educational experience disrupted by your behavior. Please step out and take time to cool down. Then we can discuss it later in office hours or by appointment through email or phone."