Information for Faculty & Staff

Addressing Disruptive Behavior

Threatening or Alarming Behavior

Sometimes behavior is more than just thoughtless or rude. Signs of threatening/alarming behavior include:

  • Saying or doing inappropriate things to test boundaries and/or to get a reaction.
  • Using derogatory or profane language in an angry manner.
  • Communicating in a hostile, aggressive, or violent manner.
  • Escalating behavior (e.g., louder voice, faster speech, pacing).
  • Making threats such as "If I don't pass this course, someone will pay," "I better graduate or else."
  • Speaking incoherently with unconnected thoughts, garbled speech.

If the Student's Behavior is Alarming, Escalating, or If You or Others Feel Threatened

  • Dial 911 immediately.  Identify yourself and your location, describe the behavior, and request assistance.
  • Inform your department chair if it was necessary to contact University Police.
  • Notify the Millersville University Threat Assessment Team at (717) 871-7070 to file a report about an incident or situation of concern.

Faculty, do you have students who do the following in your classes?

  • Arrive late?
  • Leave early?
  • IM their friends or talk on their cell phones?
  • Eat or drink in class or lab?
  • Talk with their classmates?
  • Interrupt discussions or make inappropriate remarks?
  • Refuse to follow class rules or your instructions?

Disruptive behavior in the classroom interferes with teaching and learning. Some faculty may be reluctant to confront such behavior because they do not know how to respond, worry about inflaming a difficult situation, or fear a lack of support from the University. However, such conduct should not be tolerated and may worsen if ignored.

Preventive Measures Faculty Can Take

  • Include specific expectations for student behavior (e.g., no cell phones, no tardiness, etc.) during class introduction and in your syllabus.
  • Confer with colleagues on ways they prevent or respond to disruptive behavior.
  • Model the behavior you expect of students.
  • Respond to disruptive behavior when it occurs. Ignoring it WILL NOT make it disappear.

Suggestions for Responding to Disruptive Behavior

Immediately ask the student to stop the behavior. Then speak with the student privately after class about his or her conduct.

When you talk privately with the student...

  • Be specific about the behavior that is disruptive.
  • Explain the effect the behavior has on the classroom environment.
  • Address how you feel about their behavior, e.g., communicate your frustration.
  • Allow the student to respond.
  • Restate your expectations for the student's future behavior.

If Disruptive Behavior Continues

Some disruptive behavior simply reflects bad manners and a lack of consideration of others. If such conduct persists, inform the student you will report it to the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs and the case will be treated as a violation of the University's Student Code of Conduct. Behaving in disruptive ways in class and failing to comply with your directives to stop are violations of University policy and will result in disciplinary action.

In other cases, disruptive behavior can be a result of psychological problems or other medical conditions. If you suspect the behavior with which you are dealing could be caused by such difficulties, you should contact the Counseling Center for advice on how to respond.

Your rights as a Faculty Member

You have the right to direct students to immediately cease disruptive classroom behavior. If it becomes necessary, you may also direct a student to leave your classroom for the rest of the class period. If they fail to comply with your directive to cease the disruptive behavior or leave the classroom, you should report their failure to do so to the Office of the Vice-President for Student Affairs.

If the student persists in behaving in a disruptively manner and ignores your directive to cease their behavior or to leave the classroom, you may call University Police and ask them to intervene and remove the student in the least disruptive manner possible from your classroom

View a printable version of Addressing Disruptive Student Behavior.

Referral Info

As faculty and staff you may have students reveal emotional upset associated with very diverse concerns from relationship problems, to anxiety disorders, to suicidal thinking. At that time you are in the position to become a referral person. The following may be useful as you make a referral of a student to counseling.

Is this a life threatening situation? Was there a verbal or written threat or an attempt to hurt themselves or someone else?


Proceed with the "Guide to Making Counseling Referrals" while you remain with the student or delegate a responsible staff person to remain with the student while you make your crisis calls.


Proceed with the "Guide to Making Counseling Referrals."

If you would like a printed copy of the "Guide to Making a Counseling Referrals," please contact the Counseling Center at ext. 7821 and a copy will be sent to you.