Procedures and Guidance for Addressing Disruptive Conduct

The following procedures and guidance are provided as best practices to assist all members of the university community in understanding, adhering to, and applying the policy for addressing disruptive conduct in the learning environment (FH10.5). 

Communicating Expectations for Student Conduct  
Control of the learning environment rests initially and principally with the faculty (FH10.5). The most important step in managing or addressing student conduct in the learning environment is to define expectations regarding conduct at the start of the course and to communicate these throughout the semester or as needed. Many problems arise in the learning environment when there is a difference of opinion in what is acceptable conduct. A student may assume certain types of conduct are appropriate and acceptable and then proceed to practice them. The instructor has the authority to define reasonable expectations and explain them to the student so that all students know and understand acceptable standards of conduct in the learning environment. The instructor may find it useful to include general guidelines about expectations regarding conduct (see Student Code of Conduct) in the course syllabus, including the expectation that students abide by ISU’s Principles of Community.

Progressive Approach for Addressing Disruptive Conduct  
Should any student officially enrolled for credit in or auditing a class engage in Disruptive Conduct as defined in this policy, the instructor has the authority to respond to the disruption immediately and through a progression of remedial steps. While a progressive approach is recommended, there are some instances of conduct that may require more immediate and severe action.   

In addressing disruptive conduct, it is critical that there be appropriate documentation of the conduct in question, including time, date, brief description of the incident, and what actions were taken. This documentation should always be factual and avoid personal interjections or conjecture. If the disruption occurred online, capturing screen shots of the conduct is essential. 

The majority of incidents of disruptive conduct may be resolved successfully without the need for police intervention. However, the ISU Police Department (ISU PD) should be called in certain emergency intervention situations. 

With any level of intervention (as described below), if there is mention of any mental health concerns, including past or current thoughts of self-harm, symptoms of depression or anxiety, physical or sexual assault or misconduct, discriminatory harassment, sleep or eating disorders, disability, or substance abuse issues, the instructor should forward this information to DSO (dso@iastate.edu), OEO (eooffice@iastate.edu), and/or SAS (accessibility@iastate.edu), as appropriate. DSO, OEO and/or SAS will review and determine if the information requires an outreach or additional referral, and will maintain documentation as necessary. 

Mild Intervention 
Mild intervention entails working with a student informally to resolve an issue. This kind of intervention is appropriate for an initial or isolated occurrence of disruptive conduct that may, or may not, be intentional. In the event of disruption in the learning environment, the instructor should address the disruption immediately. The instructor should remind the student and the class of the expectations of conduct and why the particular conduct is deemed disruptive. The responsible student should cease the disruptive conduct and use non-disruptive means for expressing disagreement or concern.    

In resolving disruption cases it is critical that there be appropriate documentation of the disruption in the learning environment, including time, date, brief description of the incident, and what actions were taken. In the case of mild intervention, the instructor will follow-up with the student in writing or via email to document the situation, summarizing the incident that occurred, reiterating expectations, documenting any agreement reached, and identifying consequences should the conduct continue or recur. The instructor should maintain this documentation for future reference. If the disruption occurred online, capturing screen shots of the conduct is essential. Documentation should always be factual and avoid personal interjections or conjecture.   

Intermediate Intervention  
Intermediate intervention entails taking formal action to address a problem. This type of intervention is appropriate for persistent disruptions, an escalation in the disruption, and/or more serious disruptions of the learning environment.   

At the time of the disruption or as soon as practicable thereafter, the instructor should unambiguously inform the student that they are disrupting, or continuing to disrupt, the educational environment, instruct them to stop the disruptive conduct immediately or leave the learning environment, and inform the student that a formal intervention will begin. If the conduct continues, the instructor will notify the student that they must leave the learning environment. If the disruptive conduct occurs in an online learning environment, the instructor may restrict the student from online course activities for an indicated period of time. 

For incidents warranting intermediate intervention, the instructor will provide the student with a formal written notice that documents the specific disruptive conduct exhibited, including time, date, location, and description of the incident, and what actions were taken by the instructor. The documentation should be factual and avoid personal interjections or conjecture. If the disruption occurred online, including screen shots of the conduct is essential. The formal notice will identify any learning environment changes which may be implemented as a result of this incident, as well as consequences that may result if the conduct continues or recurs. The formal written notice will be provided to the student within three calendar days of the disruptive conduct.    

The student will receive a copy of the written notice, and copies will be forwarded to the chair of the department offering the course, Dean of Students Office, and the student’s academic advisor. If, after receiving the written notice, the student asks to discuss the incident with the instructor, they may schedule a meeting. It may be helpful to include the Department Chair or designee when meeting with a student to discuss the disruptive conduct.  This may help to reinforce the importance of expectations of conduct and to keep the conversation focused. The instructor may choose instead to have another individual present (faculty member, academic advisor, DSO, etc.). Instructors are encouraged to document in writing any communication or meeting with the student. 

Emergency Intervention  
Emergency intervention is appropriate when disruptive conduct threatens or endangers the physical safety or the psychological wellbeing of individuals, for example when the instructor believes that they or another person are in imminent danger or when the instructor believes that the student may engage in imminent self-harm. Emergency intervention may also be appropriate when the disruptive conduct prohibits the continuation of the class or when a person enters or remains in the learning environment after being instructed by the instructor to leave. In this situation the instructor, or someone designated by the instructor, should call ISU PD immediately at 515-294-4428 or, in cases of emergency, 911.  

Written documentation following such an event is essential, including details of the incident, with time, date, location, and actions taken by the instructor. These incidents may require additional consultation with ISU PD, DSO, and/or the Department Chair for the course, to determine appropriate next steps. Generally, following an emergency intervention the instructor will implement an additional intervention mechanism (intermediate, suspension from class, etc.) as appropriate.  

When a threat to the health or safety of the individual exists, removal or withdrawal from the course is not a substitute for appropriate administrative action taken pursuant to the Student Disciplinary Regulations, such as interim suspension. Threats and risks to the health or safety of individuals should be immediately reported to ISU PD and DSO. 

Voluntary Course Drop 
Students cannot be involuntarily dropped from a course except as provided by an existing university policy or through the use of the student disciplinary process.  Asking a student to voluntarily drop a course should not be used as a substitute for the student disciplinary process when a student has engaged in potentially prohibited conduct. A voluntary drop of a course is most appropriate when a student cannot agree to abide by the expectations of conduct set forth by the instructor. If the student drops the course voluntarily, the student may work with the applicable college for approval of a late drop and/or an administrative drop that will not count against the total number of drops allowed.  

Removal from Class 
If a student engages in disruptive conduct in violation of this policy the instructor may require the student to leave the current course meeting. The instructor may also prohibit the student from attending a single class session subsequent to the disruptive event. In all such cases, the relevant department chair will be notified of such action. 

The instructor should clearly document the specific disruptive conduct exhibited, including time, date, location, and description of the incident, and what actions were taken by the instructor. The documentation should be factual and avoid personal interjections or conjecture. The instructor should notify the student that if the student refuses to respect the one subsequent class day removal, the instructor may contact ISU PD for assistance, leading to a formal written notice and possible disciplinary action.  

If removal is sought for more than one subsequent class session, the relevant department chair must approve the request for removal and the time period for the removal. When the course is offered by a program, the relevant program director assumes the role of the chair. When the instructor is an administrator, the petition for suspension should be reviewed at the next higher level of administration. The department chair offering the course, or designee, will engage in a fact-finding process in order to reach a decision on the request.   

If the instructor’s request to remove the student for more than a single class session is approved by the chair, the removal takes effect immediately and the student, instructor, DSO, and student’s academic advisor are notified in writing of the decision and the timeline for the suspension. The chair’s communication will notify the student in writing of 1) the removal from the class, 2) the reasons for the removal, 3) timeframe for removal, 4) expectations that must be satisfied in order to return to class, if applicable (see 10.5.4.6), and 5) the right to appeal the decision using the Appeal of Academic Grievances process in the ISU Catalog. 

If the instructor’s request to remove the student for more than a single class session is denied by the chair, the chair will: (1) explain the reasons for their decision to the instructor in writing; (2) ensure that resources in managing learning environments are made available to the instructor so that the instructor can manage the student upon the student’s return to the class; and 3) explain that the instructor may appeal the chair’s decision to the dean of the applicable college/school. 

Procedure for Students Returning to the Learning Environment 
If the student is allowed to return to the class, the chair must notify both the student and the instructor in writing. Before the student may return to class, the student, department chair, and instructor will meet to review expectations. The instructor must inform the student of any conditions of the return, expectations regarding conduct, and of opportunities to make-up missed work. Upon return to the class, further incidents of disruption by the student may be the basis for terminating the student’s enrollment in the course and/or for referral to the Dean of Students Office for consideration of student disciplinary action. 

Procedure to Terminate a Student's Enrollment in a Course 
If the department chair determines that the student should not be allowed to return to the class, the chair will notify the student in writing of 1) removal from the class, 2) the reasons for removal, and 3) the right to appeal the decision using the Appeal of Academic Grievances process in the ISU Catalog. The chair will also send written notification of the action to the dean of the student’s college, the dean of the instructor's college, DSO, the Office of the Registrar, and the student’s academic advisor. The dean of the student’s college must request that the Office of the Registrar terminate the student’s enrollment in the course administratively. 

Referring for Consideration of Student Disciplinary Charges 
During the fact-finding process, the instructor and/or the chair may also consider whether the conduct at issue should be referred to DSO for review of possible violations of the Student Disciplinary Regulations. If disciplinary charges are filed, the student’s suspension may continue pending the outcome of the disciplinary hearing (see Student Disciplinary Regulations in the Policy Library).  

Attendance by Persons not Enrolled in a Course 
The university has the right to determine who is enrolled in a course and to control the presence of any person who is not enrolled in a course.  A non-enrolled person is allowed in the classroom or to participate in the learning environment only at the discretion of the instructor. The instructor should ask any nonenrolled person who attends a class against the express wishes of the instructor to leave. The instructor should ask such a person to identify themselves. If the person refuses to leave, the ISU PD may be called for assistance. If the person is a student enrolled in the university but not enrolled in the class, disciplinary charges may be filed. 

April 9, 2019