Faculty & Staff

Students in Distress

The Vice President for Student Affairs Office has developed this informational guide as a means to assist faculty, staff and the university community when dealing with troubled students.


(Adapted from materials obtained from UCF)


If you are dealing with students in difficulty:

  • Be aware of location of nearest telephone, whether it is within the building, or a personal cell phone.
  • If the student is a threat to others, call FIU Police immediately and also report it to the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution.
  • If the student is causing classroom disruption, but not a threat to others, discuss with the student individually, your department chair or director and/or report to Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution.
  • You may always ask the disruptive student to leave the classroom at the time of the disruption; however he/she is permitted to return the next class period unless the student is removed permanently pursuant to applicable procedures.


If in doubt, always call the FIU Police Department


Important Numbers

FIU Police Department: MMC:   7-5911/ BBC:   6- 5911

Office of Student Conduct & Conflict Resolution: MMC/ BBC: 7-3939

Counseling & Psychological Services: MMC:    7-2277 / BBC:    6-5305

University Health Services:  MMC:    7-2401/ BBC:    6-5620

Disability Resource Center: MMC:    7-3850 / BBC:    6-5211

Ombudsman:  MMC:    7-2797 / BBC:    6-5547

Victim Advocacy Center:  MMC/ BBC: 7-1215

Office of Employee Assistance:  MMC:    7-2181 / BBC:    6-5545



Students with Disruptive Behavior


The FIU Student Handbook outlines the Student Code of Conduct regarding students with disruptive behavior.

Website: http://conduct.fiu.edu


Disruptive Conduct

1.  Behavior that substantially and materially disrupts, disturbs, impairs, interferes with or obstructs the orderly conduct, processes, and functions of the University or the rights of other Members of the University Community.

2.  Behavior that substantially and materially disrupts, disturbs, impairs, interferes with or obstructs the orderly conduct, processes, and functions of the classroom or laboratory and/or immediate surrounding areas. This includes interfering with the academic mission of the University or individual classroom or interfering with a faculty member or instructor’s role to carry out the normal academic or educational functions of his/her classroom laboratory and/or immediate surrounding areas.

3.  Behavior that substantially and materially disrupts or interferes with the University Student Conduct process, including, but not limited to, harassment and/or intimidation of any member of the Student Conduct Committee, witness or University personnel before, during or after a proceeding, or attempting to coerce or influence any person(s) in order to discourage their participation in any Student Conduct proceeding.

4.  Any behavior that substantially and materially disturbs the peace.


1.  Physical violence toward another person or group.

2.  Action(s) that endanger the health, safety, or welfare of self or others.

Personal Abuse 

1.  Verbal or written abuse, threats, intimidation, and/or coercion that objectively endangers the health, safety, or well-being of others. Fighting words and statements which reasonably endanger the health and safety of any person are not protected speech and may result in University action. This definition shall not be interpreted to abridge the right of any member of the University community to freedom of expression protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution and any other applicable law.

2.  Conduct directed at any person, including a Member of the University Community, which is intended to cause fear, distress, or intimidation and would cause fear, distress, or intimidation to a reasonable person or would place a reasonable person in fear of injury or death.

3.  Conduct that is sufficiently severe, pervasive, or persistent that a reasonable person would be adversely affected to a degree that interferes with or limits a his/her ability to participate in or benefit from the services, activities, or opportunities offered by the University school when such conduct is based on race, color, national origin, gender, disability, or any status protected by federal or Florida law.

4.  Interference with the freedom of another person or group to move about in a lawful manner.



Q. How should disruptive behavior in the classroom be defined?

A. “We define ‘classroom disruption’ as behavior a reasonable person would view as being likely to substantially or repeatedly interfere with the conduct of a class.  Examples include repeated, unauthorized use of cell phones in the classroom; persistent speaking without being recognized; or making physical threats.”

Q. When should I call the police?

A. “You should call the campus police or 911 whenever you believe there is any threat of violence or other unlawful behavior-including a student’s refusal to leave a class after being told to do so.  Any threat of violence should be taken seriously.  Err on the side of caution and notify the police as soon as you can.”

Q. How should I respond when a classroom disruption occurs?

A. “Faculty members have broad authority to manage the classroom environment.  One court compared teachers to judges, since both teachers and judges focus on relevant issues, set reasonable time limits, assess the quality of ideas and expression, and make sure participants are heard in an orderly manner.”

“While their ultimate goals may be different, judges and teachers need to exercise authority with compassion and self-restraint.  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.”

“Overall, key factors in responding to apparent disruptive or uncivil behavior are clarity in expectations; courtesy and fairness in responses (making sure students have an opportunity to discuss the incident with you in a timely manner); and progressive discipline, in which students (in less serious cases) are given an opportunity to learn from the consequences of their misbehavior, and to remain in the class.”

Reprinted from the ASJA Law & Policy Report, No. 26 

Copyright: ASJA (currently ASCA) & Gary Pavela: All rights reserved


Q. What should I do in the face of persistent disruption? 

A. “Current university policy states that a student who persists in disrupting a class may be directed by the faculty member to leave the classroom for the remainder of the class period and can refer the student to the Office of Student Conduct for conduct action.  The student should be told the reason(s) for such action, and be given an opportunity to discuss the matter with the faculty member as soon as practicable.  Prompt consultation should also be undertaken with the department chair and the director of the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution.”

Q. What if a disruptive student claims the disruptive behavior is the result of a disability?

A. “The fact that a student may have a disability should not inhibit you from notifying appropriate authorities (including the campus police, as needed) about disruptive behavior.  Students with or without disabilities need to know they must adhere to reasonable behavioral standards.  Setting and enforcing such standards may encourage students with disabilities to obtain needed therapy, and to take prescribed medications.”

“Disability claims and accommodation requests should be discussed with Student Disability Services.  There is an established procedure students should follow if they have a disability and seek a reasonable accommodation.”

“Generally, while different rules apply in the elementary and secondary school setting, pertinent federal agencies and the courts have made it clear that an institution of higher education does not have to tolerate or excuse violent, dangerous, or disruptive behavior, especially when that behavior interferes with the educational opportunities of other students.  Colleges and universities may discipline a student with a disability for engaging in misconduct if it would impose the same discipline on a student without a disability.”

Q. Will I be liable for defamation if I call the police or refer a student for disciplinary action and it’s later determined I made an honest mistake?

A. “The risk of liability for making such a report is virtually nil.  There are strong public policy reasons to support and protect individuals who make good faith reports of wrongdoing to appropriate officials, even if those reports later prove to be mistaken.  Common law (or statutes in some states) give people who report misconduct to proper authorities a “qualified privilege.”  That means they cannot be held liable for defamation unless their report was made in bad faith, with knowledge the information they provided was false, or in reckless disregard of its truth or falsity.”

Q. Should I act immediately or wait for a pattern of misbehavior to occur? 

A. “It’s often a mistake to assume disruptive behavior will stop on its own.  A fundamental tenet of progressive discipline is to document and respond to “small” incidents sooner rather than later.  Early intervention-sometimes in the form of a ‘behavioral contract’ developed by the director of the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution or designee and a referring teacher-might help define needed boundaries for a student.  Generally, teachers who state reasonable expectations early, and enforce them consistently, help students avoid the harsher consequences that flow from more serious infractions later.”

Q. What confidentiality standards should I follow? 

A. “The University will take appropriate disciplinary action in cases of proven classroom disruption.  Consequently, you should discuss allegations against named or identifiable students only with individuals who have some role in the disciplinary process.  Examples of people who usually have such a role include your department chair and the director of the Office of Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution.  A general rule to keep in mind is that you should refrain from sharing any personally identifiable information from student education records (like grades, or reports of misconduct) with any person (including a colleague) who has no educational interest in the information.  If in doubt, confer with legal counsel.”