Suggestions for Handling Disruptive Student Behavior in the Classroom

Disruptive Student Behavior in the Classroom

OSU supports freedom of expression and inquiry between faculty and students. However, inappropriate disruptive behavior in the classroom need not be tolerated. The following information is provided for faculty to inform you of OSU's position about disruptive student behavior.

The Student Code of Conduct (Section II, (8)) prohibits classroom disruption, which is defined as:

Behavior that a reasonable person would view as substantial or repeated interference with the instructor's ability to teach the class or the ability of other students to benefit from the instruction.

Faculty members have the responsibility and the authority to maintain a productive educational environment in the classroom. Faculty need not tolerate constant idle chit-chat, use of profanity or threatening language, routinely coming to class late or leaving early, inappropriate interruptions, personal insults, etc. A proactive approach to the problem is to include an expectation statement of student behavior in the course syllabus and to discuss these expectations with students early in the semester.

Procedures for Responding to Disruptive Student Behavior

If a student’s behavior is negatively affecting the learning environment in the classroom, consider the listed options and follow the procedures:

1.  Confront the disrespectful behavior. Depending on the severity of the behavior:

  • Consider a general word of caution to the whole class rather than warning a particular student (e.g. “we have too many conversations going on, let’s stick to today’s topic”).
  • Ask the student to meet with you after class or during office hours.
  • Tell the student to stop the behavior or ask him/her to leave the class immediately.

2.  When meeting with the student, clearly state the behavior causing the disruption and give the student an opportunity to respond. Hopefully some agreement can be reached which should be documented in writing, including what action will follow should the disruptive behavior continue. Some consequences to consider are:

  • Filing a written complaint with Student Conduct Education and Administration (SCEA);
  • Not allowing the student to return to class until he/she has met with the Student Conduct staff;
  • Recommending that the student be placed on conduct probation; and
  • Recommending that the student be dismissed from the class (in very extreme cases).

3.  If you have talked with the student on more than one occasion, document the incident(s) in a memo or letter to the student. The letter can be one of warning or a summary of your meeting with the student. The letter should include a description of the problem behavior(s), your expectations for the future and what will happen if problems continue.

4.  If the student behavior is of a threatening nature to you or other students, call the OSU Police at 405-744-6523. Also consider reporting the situation immediately to the Behavioral Consultation Team.

5.  Make a dated written anecdotal note for yourself of any discussion, incidents or action taken in case the disruptive behavior persists. It is important that you effectively document the situation and interactions with the student. Effective documentation in this kind of situation has the following components:

  • Context (reconstruct your actions, conversations with the student).
  • Chronology (dates and times).
  • Reflects due process (you have given the student an opportunity to tell his/her side of the story, respond to your observations).
  • Reflects student awareness (follow-up e-mail to the student that documents he/she has received information on the incident[s], warning letter to the student that the student signs).
  • Cross references any previously-related documentation (previous letters).

Notes

Grades are earned by students for work assigned and cannot be used as a penalty for inappropriate classroom behavior.

When a student is referred to Student Conduct Education and Administration because of classroom behavior problems, Student Conduct staff will discuss classroom behavior expectations with the student and ask him/her to agree to the expectations. The meeting is confirmed with follow-up documentation. The letter reinforces the desired change in behavior and clearly states that further disruptive classroom behavior could lead to more severe action, including probation, suspension or expulsion from the university.

Please call Student Conduct (405-744-5470)  when a referral is being made so that you and the Coordinator of Student Conduct can talk about how best to meet your needs. Addressing the issue early maintains the quality of the classroom environment and may avoid more serious problems later.

Services for Faculty and Staff

Students in Distress: A Helper's Guide