How to Identify and Refer a Distressed Student Ed Derr LPC, NCC Director of Counseling, Testing, Disability Services
Quotes “Murderers are not monsters, they’re men. And that’s the most frightening thing about them.” -Alice Sebold “If the desire to kill and the opportunity to kill came always together, who would escape hanging?” -Mark Twain
We are sometimes faced with student behavior that is troublesome while performing our role of maintaining an effective learning environment. There are student services that exist to support you.
Disturbing or Disruptive… that is the question It is useful to distinguish between student behavior that is disturbing rather than disruptive.
Identifying Disturbing Behavior Disturbing Behavior: • Causes us to feel concerned, alarmed, afraid, frustrated. • Behavior that may not have negative impact on other students, professor’s ability to teach or conduct class or implementation of other professionals’ roles in the university. • However, may indicate that a particular student is having difficulties that affects his/her academic performance.
Examples of Disturbing Behaviors • A student who jokes in class about killing himself. • A student who perspires profusely when giving a talk in front of a class. • A student who discloses that her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer. • A student who seems to work harder than most students but can’t pass an exam.
A student who appears to be losing significant weight yet speaks with pride about how little she eats. • A student whose writing appears disjointed and fragmented, as thought he cannot maintain a logical sequence in his thought processes. • A student who reports that FBI agents are following him around campus.
Interventions for Disturbing Behavior Faculty and Staff have options for responding: • Can do nothing. • Initiate a private conversation with the student about their behavior. Keep the conversation focused on the behavior, not the possible cause of it. • Consult with other professionals on campus. (Faculty and Staff are not expected or is it encouraged to provide professional counseling.) • Refer the student to other professionals on campus.
Identifying Disruptive Behavior Disruptive behavior: • Behavior that interferes with the educational process of other students. • It may or may not be responsive to faculty or staff intervention. • Is behavior that may prevent faculty/staff from carrying out professional responsibilities.
Examples of Disruptive Behavior • A student who physically confronts another person. • A student who verbally abuses another person. • A student who interrupts the educational process in class by: making remarks out of turn, taking over a lecture, dominates class discussion.
A student who physically acts out toward University property by: breaking windows, throwing furniture, smashing doors.
Interventions for Disruptive Behavior • Securing a safe environment is always top priority. If ever you have questions about immediate safety, dial 7911. • Talk with the student, preferably in private in your office. If concerned about violence erupting, ask a colleague, dept. chair, or supervisor to be present. “Two heads are better than one”.
Inform the student of the behavior that needs to change, a timeline for when the change needs to be made, and define consequences if the change does not occur. • Follow through with the consequences if change does not occur.
After the meeting, document on paper what occurred during the meeting. • It is sometimes helpful and/or necessary to provide the student with a copy of your requirements and consequences. • What about mandated counseling?
Procedures for intervention in the classroom or offices • Verbal request to stop the behavior. • Verbal request to leave. • Call Police and/or Campus Security at 7911. • Consult about dropping the student from your class. • Consult with Dean of the College and Dean of Students about possible violations of the Student Code of Conduct.
Prevention is always good medicine… when you can Things that make Drury special can help to deter violence: • Small school atmosphere • Ability to build relationships with students so they feel comfortable coming to them • Effective communication with students and among students
“Grey” Anatomy Federal privacy and antidiscrimination laws restrict how universities can deal with students who have mental health problems. (FERPA) • For the most part, universities cannot tell parents about their children’s problems w/out the student’s consent. Yes, if risk to themselves, to others, alcohol violation. • Cannot release any information in a student’s medical record w/out consent. • Cannot put students on involuntary medical leave just because they develop a serious mental illness.
Universities are in a bind. Most state laws are pretty clear: you can only bring students to hospitals if there is imminent risk to themselves or someone else.
Cases… In 2000, MIT was found liable for a student that committed suicide. Mass. Superior Court ruled that the college should have informed parents of the student’s deteriorating mental health. Parents sued for $27.7 million – settled for an undisclosed amount. On the other hand, last August, the City University of NY agreed to pay $65,000 to a student who sued after being barred from her dorm room because she was hospitalized after a suicide attempt.
George Washington University student admitted himself into GWU hospital due to suicide risk. GWU would not allow him back into school following his hospital stay; transferred schools and sued GWU. • Virginia Tech case • Northern Illinois University case
Most recent campus shooting case occurred 9/22 in Finland • Shot and killed 12 students; killed himself. • You Tube video made before the shooting. • Questioned but not detained; gun not confiscated.
Concerns… • People that are “different” perceived as a threat? A witch-hunt mentality? Profiling? • Stephen King wrote “strange” writings; Salvador Dali created “strange” art. • Introverts seen as “loners”. • Many wrongly believe most who suffer from a mental illness are prone to violence. Only a small percentage actually commit violent crimes.
Many students come to college with a prescription for some condition: depression, anxiety, birth control, ADHD or for some chronic mental illness like bipolar. Do they take their medicines correctly? Consistently? We may not know…
Thank you. Questions and Comments?