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Dealing with Disruptive Students

Disruptive Behavior

Defined

We define "classroom disruption" as behavior a reasonable person would view as being likely to interfere with the conduct of a class. Examples include repeated and unauthorized use of cell phones in the classroom, persistent speaking without being recognized, making inappropriate or loud statements, or making physical threats. 

Examples:

1. An act which impairs or interferes with, or obstructs the orderly conduct, processes, and functions of the University.

2. An act which deliberately interferes with the academic freedom or the freedom of speech of any member or guest of the University community.

3. A false report of an explosive or incendiary device which constitutes a threat or bomb scare.

4. Conduct which is lewd or indecent.

5. Breach of Peace: an act which aides, abets or procures another person to breach the peace on the University premises or at University sponsored-related functions. 

How to Respond

Best Practices Recommended

It's best to correct innocent mistakes and minor first offenses gently.  Also, if you believe inappropriate behavior is occurring, consider a general word of caution, rather than warning or embarrassing a particular student [e.g., a good approach is to say 'we have too many private conversations going on at the moment: let's all focus on the same topic'].

If the behavior in question is irritating, but not disruptive, try speaking with the student after class. Most students are unaware of distracting habits or mannerisms, and have no intent to be offensive or disruptive.  There may be rare circumstances when it is necessary to speak to a student during class about his or her behavior.  Correct the student in a courteous manner, indicating that further discussion can occur after class… [It's always best to criticize in private, praise in public.]

Overall, key factors in responding to apparent disruptive or uncivil behavior are as follows:

1. Provide clarity in expectations, through the syllabus or otherwise;

2. Ensure that responses are courteous and fair [making sure students have an opportunity to discuss the incident with you in a timely manner]; and

3. Progressive discipline, in which students [in less serious cases] are given an opportunity to learn from the consequences of their misbehavior, and

4. If possible, the goal is to correct the disruptive behavior and allow the student to remain in class.

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