A guide for faculty and staff on responding to students in distress
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A GUIDE FOR FACULTY AND STAFF ON RESPONDING TO STUDENTS IN DISTRESS. Presented by: Brett A. Sokolow, J.D. The National Center for Higher Education Risk Management www.ncherm.org. BEYOND CLASSROOM DISRUPTION – THE DISTRESSED STUDENT.

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A guide for faculty and staff on responding to students in distress
A GUIDE FOR FACULTY AND STAFF ON RESPONDING TO STUDENTS IN DISTRESS

Presented by:

Brett A. Sokolow, J.D.

The National Center for Higher

Education Risk Management www.ncherm.org


Beyond classroom disruption the distressed student
BEYOND CLASSROOM DISRUPTION – DISTRESSTHE DISTRESSED STUDENT

Faculty and staff are frequently in the best position to notice and report student distress.

You are the frontlines, the forward guard.

The events of Virginia Tech should impress upon us all the necessity of being on the watch.


What do we know
What do we know? DISTRESS

  • Roughly 80% of school violence perpetrators raised serious concerns about the potential for violence amongst friends, family, peers, or other community members prior to their acts

  • Roughly 80% of school shooters shared their plans, or parts of their plans, with others prior to their shootings.

  • Trust your instincts! Share what you hear!


The governor s panel
THE GOVERNOR’S PANEL DISTRESS

IV-4 :

“Incidents of aberrant, dangerous, or

threatening behavior must be documented

and reported immediately to a college’s

threat assessment group, and must be acted

upon in a prompt and effective manner to

protect the safety of the campus community.”


How we got here the governor s panel report on virginia tech
How we got here – The Governor’s Panel Report on Virginia Tech

“IV-6

  • Policies and procedures should be implemented to require professors encountering aberrant, dangerous, or threatening behavior from a student to report them to the dean.

  • “Guidelines should be established to address when such reports should be communicated by the dean to a threat assessment group, and to the school’s counseling center.”


The goal
THE GOAL Virginia Tech

  • To enable the university to intervene early and provide support and behavioral response to students displaying varying levels of disruptive, disturbed, distressed and/or dysregulated behaviors.


Critical understanding
CRITICAL UNDERSTANDING Virginia Tech

  • Not all disruptive behavior results from the same causes.

  • We should not, therefore, treat all disruption the same.

  • Some behaviors are concerning without being disruptive.

  • Some students are rude or disrespectful by nature or an absence of nurture. Other disruptive behaviors have psychological roots.


Terms
TERMS Virginia Tech

  • Disruption can result from three escalating levels of psychological condition:

    • Distress

    • Disturbance

    • Dysregulation


Disruptive students
“DISRUPTIVE” STUDENTS Virginia Tech

  • Anything that causes you concern.

  • Anything that prevents you from being able to effectively perform your duties.

  • When in doubt, err on the side of caution and let the appropriate officials make the determination on the level and type of intervention.


Distressed students
“DISTRESSED” STUDENTS Virginia Tech

  • Emotionally troubled

  • Individuals impacted by situational stressors and traumatic events

  • May be moving toward crisis

  • Some psychiatric symptoms


Disturbed students
“DISTURBED” STUDENTS Virginia Tech

  • Behaviorally disruptive, unusual, and/or bizarrely acting

  • Showing indications of a lack of touch with reality

  • Destructive, apparently harmful to others

  • Possibly substance abusing

  • Showing a complete lack of social norms in their behaviors

  • Also: “Erratic Behavior”


Dysregulated students
“DYSREGULATED” STUDENTS Virginia Tech

  • Suicidal

  • Parasuicidal (self-injurious, eating disordered)

  • Individuals engaging in risk-taking behaviors (e.g., substance abusing)

  • Hostile, aggressive, relationally abusive

  • Individuals deficient in skills that regulate emotion, cognition, self, behavior, and relationships


What to do
What to Do? Virginia Tech

  • The escalating rubric:

    • Confront

    • Refer

    • Intervene

  • Depending upon the nature of the disruption:

    • Is the student “merely” distressed?

    • Advancing to disturbance?

    • Experiencing dysregulation?


What to do1
What to do? Virginia Tech

  • For distress -- Confront & Suggest Resources

  • For disturbed students – Confront & Refer

  • For dysregulated student – Refer or Intervene

  • The key is to engage early before distressed behaviors snowball into disturbance or dysregulation.


Disruptive behaviors
DISRUPTIVE BEHAVIORS Virginia Tech

  • Some examples of these behaviors (gathered from various faculty members):

  • Sleeping in class

  • Eating in class (including chewing gum, in some instances!)

  • Reading the newspaper

  • Routine tardiness

  • Leaving early without notice

  • Personal hygiene problems

  • Interrupting the faculty member or other students

  • Speaking without being recognized

  • Arguing with the faculty member or other students during class

  • Dominating class discussion

  • Threatening faculty members or fellow classmates in (or out) of class verbally

  • Harassing faculty members or classmates through notes, emails, etc.

  • Overt physical disruptions (throwing chairs, books, papers, etc.)

  • Overt acts of violence directed at faculty or students (hitting, pushing, etc.)

  • WHAT YOU DECIDE IT IS (within reason) ON YOUR SYLLABUS!


What is a red flag
WHAT IS A RED FLAG? Virginia Tech

  • Distress-level behavior rarely results in violence

  • Disturbed behavior, especially when repeated or rapidly escalating, can be a red flag.

  • Dysregulated behavior is a red flag.

    • A suicidal student may be a homicidal student

    • A suicidal student may be willing to risk other lives to accomplish his or her mission


Red flags not red herrings
RED FLAGS, Virginia TechNOT RED HERRINGS

  • What is an Active Shooter?

  • Is an active shooter red in the face?

  • Are they about to “go postal”?

  • Are they sweating?

  • Are they angry and out-of-control?

  • Wearing a trenchcoat or hoodie?

  • Can’t you see one coming?


The active shooter
The Active Shooter Virginia Tech

Not when your mental image

is skewed by media-driven stereotypes.


Cognitive v primal aggression
COGNITIVE V. PRIMAL Virginia TechAGGRESSION

  • A cognitive aggressor plans, executes methodically, and is emotionally disengaged.

  • Displays dispassion/flat affect

  • Someone who is willing to give up their life for their cause shows a profound disconnection from their own well-being… and yours.


Steven kazmierczak niu
Steven Virginia TechKazmierczak -- NIU

“He stands for the briefest of moments looking

at the class, then he raises the shotgun… He

stands in place, not panicking, not rushing…

There was no change of expression, not even

excitement. It was like if you’re repainting a

room at home, painting the walls, and you

realize you missed a few spots, it was that

mechanical.”

  • Source: Esquire Magazine, July 16th 2008


What is a red flag1
WHAT IS A RED FLAG? Virginia Tech

  • Alarming behavior that may show a lack of control by the actor is the stereotype

  • The “thousand-yard stare” shows a level of detachment from self that is concerning

  • Suicidal threats or gestures

    • “I don’t need my hard drive any more”

    • “Facebook” Suicide


What is a red flag2
WHAT IS A RED FLAG? Virginia Tech

  • In addition to suicidality, there is a correlation between violence and a history of the actor being subject to extreme bullying.

  • Look for patterns in writing, class discussion or class interaction.

    • Themes of revenge

    • Themes of annihilation

    • Themes of “outsider” exclusion


Reporting these behviors
REPORTING THESE BEHVIORS Virginia Tech

  • Faculty have been reluctant to report disruptive activities in the classroom. In Coping With Disruptive College Students (1994), Gerald Amada identified four possible (and typical) reasons:

    • Faculty hope for a spontaneous resolution

    • Faculty fear that they will not be supported by the administration

    • Faculty fear that reporting will be viewed as a reflection of inadequacy as an educator

    • Faculty fear retaliation.


The clery act
THE CLERY ACT Virginia Tech

  • Clery Act- Federal Statute (20 USC § 1092(f))

  • This campus crime reporting law requires that “campus security authorities” immediately report crimes of which they become aware to campus law enforcement.

  • Are faculty members considered “campus security authorities” under this statute?

  • Yes, if they do more than just teach, such as advise student organizations, coordinate externships, supervise study abroad sites, etc.


Resources for referral
RESOURCES FOR REFERRAL Virginia Tech

  • DEAN

  • JUDICIAL AFFAIRS/STUDENT CONDUCT

  • POLICE (CAMPUS AND/OR LOCAL)

  • COUNSELING

  • HEALTH SERVICE

  • DISABILITY SERVICES

  • STUDENT SUPPORT SERVICES

  • BEHAVIORAL INTERVENTION STAFF


Should you confront dysregulated students
Should you confront DYSREGULATED students? Virginia Tech

  • Probably not. INTERVENE.

  • Response should be determined by how you learned about the dysregulated behavior.

  • Refer them if you think they’ll comply, or intervene if they will not take the referral voluntarily.

  • If you are simply learning about the behavior through passive means, you should report it to your BIT.

  • If your concern is ignored, if student escalates, if situation is more serious, you should report it immediately.


REMEMBER: NEVER PUT YOURSELF IN DANGER OR JEOPARDY Virginia Tech– REMOVE YOURSELF AND ANY OTHERS FROM THE SITUATION AND NOTIFY THE CAMPUS POLICE!


Should police be called
Should police be called? Virginia Tech

  • When should I call the Police?

    • If you feel your or your students safety is at risk!

    • If the behaviors are occurring off campus

  • When should I notify administrators instead?

    • If the level of disruption or harassment has not risen to a threat or safety concern.

  • Can PD/Security remove someone from my classroom?

    • Yes, but that may be a short term solution.


Should we alert the counseling center
Should we alert the counseling center? Virginia Tech

  • It depends on your campus response protocols:

    • Do you have a BIT?

    • Who else is already aware?

    • Do you know what their response will be?


How can students be dismissed from classes or housing
How can students be dismissed from classes or housing? Virginia Tech

  • Refer to your campus policies and procedures!

  • Do NOT take shortcuts to accomplish a goal:

    • The ends will NOT justify the means later….

  • The legal standards and ramifications


How do ada and section 504 protect students whose distress stems from disability
How do ADA and Section 504 protect students whose distress stems from disability?

  • Students with psychiatric disabilities have sued under ADA with limited success.

  • These individuals must prove they are disabled under the law.

  • A psychiatric condition alone is insufficient to trigger legal protections…it must limit major life activity

  • Students must disclose their disabilities and request reasonable accommodations BEFORE they can claim discrimination

  • School administrators have no duty to provide accommodations for disabilities of which they are not aware (Mowbray, et. al., 2006)


Absenteeism and substance abuse
ABSENTEEISM AND SUBSTANCE ABUSE stems from disability?

  • Absenteeism as an important indicator of students’ emotional functioning

  • Referrals by faculty to Student Affairs for absenteeism and other academic concerns

  • Students drunk in class or needing alcohol transport may also raise red flags.


Questions comments concerns

QUESTIONS? COMMENTS? CONCERNS stems from disability?


CONTACT: stems from disability?

The National Center for Higher

Education Risk Management

Malvern, Pennsylvania

www.ncherm.org

[email protected]

(610) 993 - 0229


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