Student Support and Advocacy

Disruptive and Threatening Student Behavior Guidelines

Occasionally, the University of Southern California experiences threatening and disruptive behavior on the part of some students, a trend paralleled nationally at other campuses. You as a faculty or staff member may find yourself having to contend with a disruptive or emotionally disturbed student at some point during your career.

Student behaviors that you may encounter range from simple disruptions in class, to ongoing harassment, to verbal and physical threats.

The guidelines in this booklet are designed to: 1) assist your department in thinking through its response to situations in which students may behave in unusual or unpredictable ways; 2) help you handle an actual threat; and 3) assist you with referral and protocol procedures. When your department has prepared its faculty and staff adequately for such situations, the chances of serious disruption may be lessened.

Students may exhibit disruptive behaviors in a classroom, department, or office. Faculty or staff members may find themselves on the receiving end of a student’s anger or frustration. Often the behavior in question constitutes a violation of USC’s Student Conduct Code, and can be addressed in accordance with Student Conduct procedures (as described in SCampus). However, it is rarely enough to simply hand a situation over to Student Judicial Affairs when a student has caused significant disruption within a department. The department or office involved may also need to address issues related to the perceived safety of its faculty and staff, as well as the wellbeing of other students.

Note: A separate policy and protocol exists for handling violence in the workplace. When an employee is threatening or intimidating another, assistance should be sought from the Department of Public Safety or from the threat management team at the Risk Management Office.

Disruptive and Threatening Student Behavior Guidebook for Faculty and Staff (PDF)