CARE Team Mission and Responsibilities

Distress

An individual in distress may not be disruptive to others, but may exhibit behaviors indicating something is wrong, show signs of emotional distress, and indicate that assistance is needed. Some common questions include? 

What are the signs of distress?
How to respond to distress?

Contact Advocacy and Empowerment at 608-785-8062 for consultation and support regarding students in distress.

Disruption

Severely troubled or disruptive individuals exhibit behaviors that signify an obvious crisis and that necessitate emergency care. These problems are easiest to identify. Some common questions include:

What are signs of disruptive behavior?
How should I respond to a disruptive individual?
How should I respond when a student is disrupting my class? 

Contact the Student Life Office at 608-785-8062 for support in providing support for students exhibiting disruptive behaviors. 

Danger

If you or someone you know is in immediate danger (from self or others) contact 911 immediately for: 

  • Any incident involving any weapon being displayed
  • Any incident where a person has been injured by the actions of another
  • Any incident where a threat to harm or kill someone was make
  • Any suicide attempt
  • Any substantial property damage
  • Any incident involving a hate crime
  • Any crime or disturbance in progress when rescue or emergency medical assistance is needed

What are signs that an individual may be in distress? 

An individual in distress may not be disruptive to others, but may exhibit behaviors indicating that something is wrong, show signs of emotional distress, and indicate that assistance is needed. The individual may be reluctant or unable to acknowledge a need for personal help.

Behaviors may include:

  1. A sudden and/or significant change in academic performance/goals.
  2. Excessive absences, especially if the individual has previously demonstrated consistent attendance.
  3. Unusual or markedly changed patterns of interaction, i.e., avoidance of participation, excessive anxiety when called upon, domination of discussions, etc.
  4. Other characteristics that suggest the individual is having trouble managing stress successfully e.g., a depressed, lethargic mood; very rapid speech; swollen, red eyes; marked change in personal dress and hygiene; falling asleep during class/work.
  5. Repeated requests for special consideration, such as deadline extensions, especially if the student appears uncomfortable or highly emotional while disclosing the circumstances prompting the request.
  6. New or repeated behavior which pushes the limits of decorum and which interferes with effective management of the immediate environment.
  7. Unusual or exaggerated emotional responses which are obviously inappropriate to the situation.

How should I respond to an individual who is troubled or showing signs of distress? 

For individuals that are mildly troubled you can choose to handle them in the following ways:

  1. Set limits and deal directly with the behavior/problem according to your classroom/work protocol.
  2. Address the situation on a more personal level, i.e., identify the problem and refer them to the correct resource.
  3. Consult with the Office of Student Life at 608.785.8062.
  4. Refer the individual to one of the University Resources.

What are signs of disruptive behavior? 

Severely troubled or disruptive individuals exhibit behaviors that signify an obvious crisis and that necessitate emergency care. These problems are the easiest to identify.

Examples include:

  1. Highly disruptive behavior both verbally and/or physically (e.g. hostility, aggression, violence, etc.)
  2. Inability to communicate clearly (garbled, slurred speech; unconnected, disjointed, or rambling thoughts).
  3. Loss of contact with reality (seeing or hearing things which other cannot see or hear; beliefs or actions greatly at odds with reality or probability).
  4. Stalking behaviors
  5. Inappropriate communications (including threatening letters, e-mail messages, harassment).
  6. New or repeated behavior which pushes the limits of decorum and which interferes with effective management of the immediate environment.
  7. Overtly suicidal thoughts (including referring to suicide as a current option or in a written assignment).
  8. Threats to harm others.

How should I respond to a disruptive individual?

  1. Remain calm and know who to call for help, if necessary. Find someone to stay with the individual while calls to appropriate resources are made available. 
  2. Remember that it is NOT your responsibility to provide the professional help needed for a severely troubled disruptive individual. You need only make the necessary call and request assistance. 
  3. When an individual expresses a direct threat to themselves or others, or acts in a bizarre, highly irrational or disruptive way, call University Police immediately. 

How should I respond when a student is disrupting my class? 

Faculty members have broad authority to manage their classrooms and establish reasonable guidelines for class discussions that ensure everyone has an opportunity to participate in an orderly manner. If you believe a student's behavior is inappropriate, consider a general word of caution rather than singling a student out or embarrassing the student. "If behavior in question is irritating, but not disruptive, try speaking with 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 where it is necessary to speak to a student during class about his or her behavior. Correct the student in a manner, indicating that further discussion can occur after class." (Pavela, 2001, 5).

If a student's behavior reaches the point that interferes with your ability to conduct the class or the ability of other students to benefit from the class, the student should be asked to leave the room for the remainder of the class periods. The student should be provided with a reason for this action and an opportunity to discuss the matter with you as soon as is practical. In such situations consultation and referral to the Dean of your College or another Academic Administrator may be appropriate.

This item adapted from ASJA Law & Policy Report, No. 26, ASJA & Gary Pavela, 2001.