The Student Who Displays Atypical Behaviors

Some students may behave, communicate, interact and learn in ways that are different from others. For example, a student may make noises (i.e. mouth clicking, rock their bodies as a coping mechanism, etc.), raise their hand obsessively, speak in an aggressive or loud tone, ask repeated questions, have difficulties sitting still without fidgeting, interrupt, speak out of turn, or have a low tolerance for ambiguity.

What you can do:

  • Create black and white classroom rules while in class for all students.
  • Communicate with the student privately.
  • Ask the student to lower tone.
  • Establish boundaries with student regarding asking questions in class.
  • Invite student to visit during office hours should questions require too much class time.
  • Utilize creativity, patience, and innovation when considering learning environment options for the student.
  • Consult with campus resources, if needed (i.e. DSS, CAPS, DOS, etc.).
  • Provide referral resources that may be useful for the student. If hesitant to do so utilize the umbrella approach and include several student resources: DSS, CAPS, DOS, Academic Advisement, etc.
  •  Know you have rights in regards to the Student Code of Conduct (Refer to Student Code of Conduct).


  • Question or reprimand the student’s atypical behaviors in a public setting in front of other students.
  • Automatically refer the student to CAPS or DSS without setting above established boundaries.

The Absent/Disappeared From Class Student

You may notice a student that has been missing/absent from class and has not made contact with you or a student who is missing significant work or assignments.

What You Can Do:

  • Initiate contact with the student by e-mailing the student or messaging them via Canvas.
  • Share observations / facts: “I noticed you missed X# of classes” or “I haven’t seen or heard from you in 3 weeks.
  • Share concern: “Sorry you are having difficulties.” “I am worried that you may be experiencing distress that impacted your attendance.”
  • Offer to talk: “Would you like to talk.”
  • Be clear and direct about your expectations and the consequences for not meeting expectations
  • Be open/listen to the students’ perspective about why they missed class or assignments.
  • Ask how the student believes they can better meet expectations for attendance or work.
  • Inquire how the student is doing in other classes.
  • Submit a Student in Distress Referral form if the absences are related to distress or if you think it would be helpful to have someone from the Care Services team contact the student.


  • Disregard/invalidate the student’s feelings.
  • Minimize concerns.
  • Feel pulled to change expectations and make accommodations immediately. It’s okay to say “I’ll consider an alternative.”
  • Lecture/scold: “You know you really should come to class.”
  • Use scare tactics, threats/bribes: “If you don’t come to class you might fail” or “I might fail you” said in a threatening way.

The Academically Underachieving Student 

While it is easy to conclude that the academically underachieving student is simply unmotivated, the real situation is often more complicated. Students may be preoccupied with situational and family problems or have emotional problems that are distracting and disabling. They may have learning disabilities, attention deficit disorder, or substance abuse problems. Further, previous failures for any reason can engender a hopeless outlook and a defensive “I don’t care” attitude.

What You Can Do:

  • Inquire compassionately as to what the challenges or issues are.
  • Provide enough time for the student to open up. The students’ initial defensiveness might be off‐putting to an instructor who values involvement and dedication in students.
  • Help the student assess the source of underachievement, e.g., distractions, preoccupations, emotional problems, depression, difficulties with underlying academic and study skills.
  • Sensitively address the difficulty of dealing with a “failure mentality.”
  • Submit a  Student in Distress Referral form if you think the student would benefit by talking with someone.


  • Don’t take the student’s problem personally or be insulted if they may not find the class or program engaging. 
  •  Don’t assume too quickly the issue is mere laziness.
  • Don’t punish the student for lack of involvement.
  • Don’t dismiss the student and problem in one meeting.

The Student with Adjustment/Transition Issues

Facts about transitions:

  • Transitions are times of change that usually involve both loss and opportunity.
  • Entering college is one of life’s most demanding transitions; arguably the most significant transition since the start of kindergarten.
  • College students face many challenging transitions including graduating and entering the work force.
  • The changes inherent in a transition produce stress and challenge a student’s coping resources.
  • Students commonly experience a decline in functioning (academic, social, emotional) during transitions.
  • Transition stress can be compounded by counter-productive coping mechanisms such as avoidance of stress-producing situations and people, excessive partying, and alcohol abuse.
  • Transitions can pose greater problems to students who have pre-existing psychological problems or difficult life circumstances.
  • Students going through a transition may benefit from counseling to enhance their coping efforts or to prevent the onset of serious problems.

Signs that a student is having transition challenges or issues include:

  • Anxiety symptoms such as nervousness, irritability, tearfulness, and sleep problems.
  • Depressed mood.
  • Difficulty managing responsibilities or relationships.

What You Can Do:

  • Convey to the student that transition stress is normal and often brings a temporary decline in performance.
  • Encourage the student to use positive coping strategies to manage transition stress including: regular exercise, use of social support, a reasonable eating and sleeping regimen, and scheduling pleasurable activities.
  • Encourage the student to explore the full range of campus involvement opportunities including clubs and organization; leadership programs; etc.
  • Submit a  Student in Distress Referral form if concerns persist or if you think the student could benefit by talking with someone.


  • Assume the student understands the impact of transitions and is aware of the source of stress
  • Minimize or trivialize the student’s feelings and reactions.
  • Discount or overlook factors that put the student at risk of more serious problems.

The Anxious Student

Anxiety is a normal response to a perceived danger or threat to one's well-being. For some students, the cause of their anxiety will be clear.  Dealing with unexpected events and conflicts are primary causes of anxiety.  But for others, it is difficult to pinpoint the source of stress.

Students may experience rapid heart palpitations; chest pain or discomfort; dizziness; sweating; trembling or shaking; and cold, clammy hands.  Students may also complain of difficulty concentrating, obsessive thinking, feeling continually "on the edge," having difficulty making decisions, or being too fearful/unable to take action. In rarer cases, a student may experience a panic attack in which the physical symptoms occur so spontaneously and intensely that the student may fear they are dying. The following guidelines remain appropriate in most cases.

What You Can Do:

  • Encourage the student to discuss their feelings and thoughts, as this alone often relieves a great deal of pressure.
  • Provide reassurance without being unrealistic.
  • Remain calm and take the lead in a soothing manner.
  • Be clear and direct about expectations.
  • Provide a safe and quiet environment until the symptoms subside.
  • Be patient.
  • Help the student develop an action plan that addresses their main concerns.
  • Submit a   Student in Distress Referral if you think the student would benefit from speaking with someone.


  • Minimize the perceived threat to which the student is reacting.
  • Take responsibility for the student's emotional state.
  • Overwhelm the student with complex information or ideas to "fix" their condition.
  • Be judgmental / cynical.
  • Get caught up in their anxiety.
  • Disregard their feelings.
  • Argue with student’s irrational thoughts.
  • Assume the student will “get over it”.

The Demanding Student

Typically, the time and energy you give to the demanding student is never enough. They often seek to control your time and unconsciously believe the amount of time received is a reflection of their worth.   Students who are demanding can be intrusive and persistent and may require much time and attention.  Demanding traits can be associated with anxiety, depression, personality problems, and/or thought disorders, mania, drug use/abuse.

Characteristics of students who are demanding may include:

  • A sense of entitlement
  • An inability to empathize
  • A need for control
  • Difficulty in dealing with ambiguity
  • Perfectionism
  • Difficulty with structure and limits
  • Dependency
  • Fears about handling life</>
  • Elevated mood

What You Can Do:

  • Talk to the student in a place that is safe and comfortable.
  • Remain calm and take the lead.
  • Offer limited but positive feedback.
  • Set limits on your time and keep to them (e.g., “I have only 10 minutes” or "Excuse me, I need to attend to other things").
  • Emphasize behaviors that are and aren’t acceptable.
  • Be prepared for manipulative requests and behaviors.
  • Respond quickly and with clear limits to behavior that disrupts class, student sessions, or consultations.
  • Maintain clear boundaries in the relationship.
  • Offer them other possibilities of places to get support/attention.
  • Submit a Student in Distress Referral online referral form if concerning behavior persists beyond a reasonable amount of time; if your efforts to help the student have not resolved the problem or; if you have referred the student for assistance elsewhere in the past and there seems to be no improvement or things seem to be worsening.


  • Argue with the student.
  • Give in to inappropriate requests, making exceptions, special “deals” bargains.
  • Adjust your schedule or policies to accommodate the student.
  • Ignore inappropriate behavior that has a negative impact on you or other students.
  • Feel obligated to take care of the student, or feeling guilty for not doing more.
  • Let the student use you as their only source of support.
  • Get trapped into being bullied out of your comfort zone.

The Dependent Student 

You may find yourself feeling increasingly drained and responsible for this student in a way that is beyond your normal involvement. It may seem that even the utmost time and energy given to these students is not enough. They often seek to control your time and unconsciously believe the amount of time received is a reflection of their worth. It is helpful if the student can be connected with proper sources of support on-campus and in the community in general.

What You Can Do:

  • Let students make their own decisions.
  • Validate when they take independent action.
  • Set firm and clear limits on your personal time and involvement.
  • Offer referrals to other resources.
  • Submit a Student in Distress Referral online referral form if the behavior persists beyond a reasonable amount of time; if your efforts to help the student have not changed the behavior; if you have referred the student for assistance elsewhere in the past and there seems to be no improvement or things seem to be worsening or; if you think the student would benefit by talking with someone.


  • Get trapped into giving continual advice, special conditions/treatment, etc.
  • Avoid the student as an alternative to setting and enforcing limits.
  • Over commit.

The Depressed Student

Depression, and the variety of ways it manifests itself, is part of a natural emotional and physical response to life's ups and downs.  With the busy and demanding life of a college student, it is safe to assume that most students will experience periods of reactive depression during their college careers. It is when the depressive symptoms become so extreme or are so enduring that they begin to interfere with the student's ability to function in school, work, or social environments, that the student will come to your attention and be in need of assistance.

Due to the opportunities that faculty and staff have to observe and interact with students, you are often the first to recognize that a student is in distress. Look for a pattern of these indicators:

  • Tearfulness/general emotionality or a marked lack of emotion.
  • Feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, helplessness and worthlessness.
  • A deep sense of sadness.
  • Dependency (a student who makes excessive requests for your time).
  • Markedly diminished performance.
  • Lack of energy/motivation.
  • An inability to experience pleasure.
  • Infrequent or sporadic class attendance.
  • Increased anxiety/test anxiety/performance anxiety.
  • Difficulties with concentration, memory, and decision-making.
  • Deterioration in personal hygiene.
  • Irregular eating and sleeping.
  • Fatigue and social withdrawal.
  • Alcohol or drug use.

Sometimes depression includes irritation, anxiety and anger.  In its most serious form, depression can be accompanied by self-destructive thoughts and intentions as a way to escape from the emotional pain.  Research shows that depression can be highly responsive to both psychotherapy and medication.

Students experiencing depression often respond well to a small amount of attention for a short period of time. Early intervention increases the chances of the student's rapid return to optimal performance.

What You Can Do:

  • Talk to the student in private.
  • Listen carefully and validate the student’s feelings and experiences.
  • Be supportive and express your concern about the situation.
  • Let the student know you've noticed they appear to be feeling down and you would like to help.
  • Reach out and encourage the student to discuss how they’re feeling.
  • Offer options to further investigate and manage the symptoms of depression. Discuss clearly and concisely an action plan such as having the student immediately call for a counseling appointment.
  • Refer the student to Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) 657-275-3040.
  • Be willing to consider or offer flexible arrangements (e.g., extension on a paper or exam), if appropriate, as a way to alleviate stress and instill hope.
  • Ask student if they have thoughts of suicide. If so, do not leave the student alone. Walk the student to CAPS.  If it is after 5:00pm Monday-Friday or on the weekend, access emergency service by calling University Police at (657) 278- 2515 or  the CAPS on-call service at 657- 278-3040.
  • Submit a Student in Distress Referral form if you have referred the student for assistance elsewhere in the past and there seems to be no improvement or things seem to be worsening or; if you think the student would benefit by talking with someone.


  • Minimize the student's feelings, e.g. "Don't worry. Everything will be better tomorrow."
  • Bombard the student with "fix it" solutions or advice.
  • Argue with the student or dispute that the student is feeling depressed.
  • Provide too much information for the student to process.
  • Chastise the student for poor or incomplete work.
  • Expect the student to stop feeling depressed without intervention.
  • Be afraid to ask whether the student is suicidal if you suspect they may be (e.g. "Have you had thoughts of harming yourself?" See page titled "The Suicidal Student" for further information.).
  • Assume they are suicidal.
  • Assume the family knows about the student’s depression.

The Grieving Student 

During the course of most college student’s academic careers, it is likely they will have someone close to them die (e.g., sibling, parent, grandparent, close friend, partner). Each person will grieve in slightly different ways.

What You Can Do:

  • Ask the student if they would like to talk about the person who has died (e.g., "Would you like to tell me about your friend?").
  • Listen carefully and compassionately (e.g., "I am so sorry you have lost your grandmother, and I feel sad as I listen to you talk about her").
  • Consider the option of allowing students to postpone turning in assignments or taking exams.
  • When appropriate and if you are comfortable, share similar experiences you have had so the student doesn't feel alone or "crazy" (e.g., "When my mother passed away, I couldn't concentrate on anything either").
  • Be on the alert for signs that the student is feeling a need to harm themselves as a way to cope with the pain. (See section on "The Suicidal Student.").
  • Let the student know that if the grief becomes overwhelming, they can seek counseling to help deal with the loss.
  • Submit a  Student in Distress Referral form if you think the student would benefit by talking with someone.


  • Be afraid of tears. Tears are a natural, healthy way to release very intense emotions.
  • Avoid discussing the deceased person with the student. They are often grateful to find someone who will listen.
  • Say, "It's not that bad," "Things will get better," "Crying won't help," or "I know exactly what you are feeling."

The Suicidal Student

Although suicide is not often seen as a common event, it is the second leading cause of death among college students. People who are suicidal often tell people about their thoughts or give clues to others about their feelings. It is important to view all suicidal comments or behavior as serious and make appropriate referrals. Suicidal states are often associated with major depression, a combination of acute anxiety and depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and bipolar disorder.

Some factors associated with suicide risk are:

  • Suicidal thoughts.
  • Pessimistic view of the future.
  • Intense feelings of hopelessness, especially when combined with anxiety/feelings of alienation and isolation.
  • Viewing death as a means of escape from distress.
  • Previous suicide attempts.
  • Personal or family history of depression or suicide.
  • Personal or family history of suicide attempts.
  • Substance abuse.
  • In some cases, a history of self-injurious behaviors. Please note: not all self-injurious behavior is associated with suicide.

A student who is suicidal and who confides in someone is often ambivalent about suicide and open to discussion. Suicidal students usually want to communicate their feelings; any opportunity to do so should be encouraged.

Students who are at high riskusually have a specific plan, have a means that is lethal (e.g., medication, knife, gun), and tend to be or feel isolated.

What You Can Do:


  • Call University Police at (657) 278-2515 if the student is in immediate danger to self.
  • Talk to the student in private.
  • Remain calm and take the lead.
  • Take the student seriously --- 80% of those attempting suicide give warning of their intent.
  • Be direct --- ask if the student is suicidal, if they have a plan and if they have the means to carry out that plan.  Exploring this with the student may actually decrease the impulse to commit suicide.
  • Express care and concern. Be available to listen. Do not leave the student alone.
  • Refer the student to Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) at (657) 278-3040 for additional help.
  • You may need to walk the student to CAPS to make sure the student actually receives help.
  • Take care of yourself. Allow yourself to receive support from those close to you or those trained to provide it. Suicide intervention is demanding and draining work.
  • After you intervene and ensure the students safety, submit a Student in Distress Referral form.


  • Minimize the situation. All threats must be considered potentially lethal.
  • Leave the student alone if they have a plan.
  • Be afraid to ask the student about suicide. Asking a student if they are suicidal will not put the idea in their head if it isn’t there already.
  • Over commit yourself. Doing so may leave you eventually feeling overwhelmed or unable to deliver on what you promised.
  • Ignore your limitations.
  • Allow friends to assume responsibility for the student without getting input from a professional.
  • Assume the family knows that the student has suicidal thoughts.

The Student in Poor Contact with Reality

These students have difficulty distinguishing fantasy from reality. Their thinking is typically illogical, confused, or irrational; their emotional responses may be incongruent or inappropriate; speech that makes no sense; and their behavior may be bizarre or disturbing. They may experience hallucinations, often auditory, and may report hearing voices. They are socially withdrawn, unable to connect with or track normal communication, extreme or unwarranted suspicion. While this student may elicit alarm or fear from others, they are generally not dangerous and are more frightened and overwhelmed by you than you are by them. If you cannot make sense of their conversation, they may be in need of immediate assistance.

Bipolar disorder involves periods of serious depression combined with periods of extreme euphoria and frenzied thinking and behavior, the latter of which can reflect a poor reality. A person with bipolar disorder can become psychotic.

Psychological illnesses that involve psychotic features often have an onset between the late teens and early 30s.

What You Can Do:

  • Respond with warmth and kindness, as well as with firm reasoning.
  • Speak to the student in a direct and concrete manner regarding your plan for getting them to a safe environment.
  • Remove extra stimulation from the environment (step outside of a noisy room).
  • Acknowledge your concerns and state that you can see they need help.
  • When appropriate, acknowledge your difficulty in understanding them and ask for clarification or restatement, e.g., "I’m not sure I understand what you're trying to tell me, can you try to explain it more clearly?"
  • Focus on the "here and now." Ask for specific information about the student's awareness of time, place, and destination.
  • Speak to their healthy side, which they have. It's okay to laugh and joke when appropriate.
  • Recognize that psychotic states can involve extreme emotion or lack of emotion and intense fear to the point of paranoia.
  • Accompany the student to CAPS or call University Police at (657) 278-2515 if the student is highly impaired and is a danger to self or others.
  • After you intervene and ensure student safety, submit a Student in Distress Referral form especially if your efforts to help the student have not been effective; if you have referred the student for assistance elsewhere in the past and there seems to be no improvement or things seem to be worsening or; if you think the student would benefit by talking with someone.


  • Argue or try to convince them of the irrationality of their thinking as this commonly produces a stronger defense of the false perceptions.
  • Play along with or encourage further discussion of the delusion processes, e.g., "Oh yes, I hear the voices (or see the devil)."
  • Demand, command, or order.
  • Expect customary emotional responses.
  • Assume the student will be able to care of self.
  • Agitate the student with questions, pressure, etc.
  • Assume the student understands you.
  • Allow friends to care for the student without getting professional advice.
  • Get locked into one way of dealing with the student. Be flexible.
  • Assume the family knows about the student’s condition.

The Student Suspected of Substance Abuse/Addiction

Alcohol is the preferred drug on college campuses and is the most widely used psychoactive drug. Alcohol abusers in college populations tend to abuse other drugs, both prescription and illicit. Patterns of use are affected by fads and peer pressure.

The effects of alcohol on the user are well known. Student alcohol abuse is most often identified by faculty and staff when irresponsible, unpredictable behavior affects the learning, work, or living environment (i.e. drunk and disorderly in class, or office), or when a combination of the health and social impairments associated with alcohol abuse sabotages student performance. Because of the denial that exists in most substance abusers, it is important to express your concern about the student not in terms of suspicions about alcohol and other drugs, but in terms of specific changes in behavior or performance.

Signs that a student may have an alcohol problem:

  • Specific school problems such as poor attendance, low grades, and/or recent disciplinary action.
  • Failure to fulfill major work, school, or home responsibilities.
  • Mood changes such as temper flare-ups, irritability, and defensiveness.
  • Physical or mental problems such as memory lapses, poor concentration, bloodshot eyes, lack of coordination, or slurred speech.
  • Drinking in situations that are physically dangerous, such as driving a car.
  • Having recurring alcohol-related legal problems, such as being arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or for physically hurting someone while drunk.
  • Continued drinking despite having ongoing relationship problems that are caused or worsened by drinking.

Signs that a student may have a drug problem:

  • Neglecting school, work, or family responsibilities.
  • Spending a lot of time getting, using, and recovering from the effects of a drug.
  • Abandoning previously-enjoyed activities, such as hobbies, sports, and socializing, in order to use drugs.
  • Taking risks while high, such as starting a fight or engaging in unprotected sex.
  • Continuing to use despite physical problems (e.g., blackouts, flashbacks, infections, injuries) or psychological problems (e.g., mood swings, depression, anxiety, delusions, paranoia) the drug has caused.
  • Experiencing withdrawal symptoms (e.g., nausea, restlessness, insomnia, concentration problems, sweating, tremors, anxiety).
  • After reducing or stopping chronic drug use, taking a drug in order to avoid withdrawal symptoms.
  • Legal troubles because of drug use, such as arrests for disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, or stealing to support drug habit.

What You Can Do:

  • Treat the situation as serious.
  • Be alert for signs of alcohol and drug abuse, especially if you observe these signs during class.
  • Confront the student with the behavior that is of concern and encourage the student to seek help.
  • Encourage the student to make an appointment with Counseling and Psychological Services at (657) 278-3040. You can also encourage the student to schedule an individual consultation with a Titan Well Health Educator at (657) 278-4370.
  • Offer support and concern for the student’s overall well-being.
  • Consult with the Office of Student Conduct at (657) 278-4436.
  • When appropriate call University Police at (657) 278-2515.
  • Recognize that denial is a powerful aspect of substance problems and that it can involve conscious or unconscious lying and distorting the truth.
  • Submit a Student in Distress Referral form if your efforts to help the student have not been effective; if you have referred the student for assistance elsewhere in the past and there seems to be no improvement or things seem to be worsening or; if you think the student would benefit by talking with someone.


  • Ignore signs of intoxication in the classroom or workplace.
  • Convey judgment or criticism about the student’s substance abuse.
  • Make allowances for the student’s irresponsible behavior.
  • Assume problem is temporary – minimize symptoms.
  • Encourage the behavior in any manner.

The Verbally Agressive Student

Students may become verbally abusive when they encounter frustrating situations which they believe are beyond their control. Aggression varies from threats to verbal abuse to physical abuse and violence. It is very difficult to predict aggression and violence. Students can displace anger and frustration from those situations onto the nearest target. You may have become a convenient object for their pent-up frustrations. Explosive outbursts or ongoing belligerent, hostile behavior become this student’s way of gaining power and control in an otherwise out-of-control experience. It is important to remember that the student is generally not angry at you personally, but is angry at their world. These students often feel they will be rejected and, therefore, reject you before you reject them. They often realize the drama and intimidation behind their anger and are aware of their impact. This behavior is often associated with the use of alcohol and other drugs.

What You Can Do:

  • Defuse and de-escalate the situation by remaining calm, speaking in a calm tone, and modeling appropriate behavior.
  • Acknowledge the student’s anger and frustration, e.g., "I hear how angry you are."
  • Rephrase what they are saying and identify their emotion, e.g., "It appears you are upset because you feel your rights are being violated and nobody will listen."
  • Reduce stimulation; invite the person to a quiet place if this is possible. However, do not invite the person to a quiet place if you fear for your safety. In all instances, ensure that another person is easily accessible to you in the event that the student's behavior escalates.
  • Enlist the help of a co-worker.
  • Allow them to tell you what is upsetting them.
  • Be directive and firm about the behaviors you will accept, e.g., "Please stand back; you're too close,” and/or "I cannot listen to you when you are yelling."
  • Use a time-out strategy (that is, ask the student to reschedule a meeting with you once they have calmed down) if the student refuses to cooperate and remains aggressive or agitated.
  • Help the student problem-solve and deal with the real issues when they become calm, e.g., "I'm sorry you are so upset; I'd like to help if I can."
  • Be honest and genuine; do not placate aggression.
  • Submit a Student in Distress Referral form if your efforts to help the student have not been effective; if you have referred the student for assistance elsewhere in the past and there seems to be no improvement or things seem to be worsening or; if you think the student would benefit by talking with someone.
  • Consult with the Office of Student Conduct


  • Stay in a situation in which you feel unsafe.
  • Meet alone with the student.
  • Get into an argument or shouting match.
  • Become hostile or punitive yourself, e.g., "You can't talk to me that way."
  • Press for explanations for their behavior.
  • Ignore the situation or signs that the student’s anger is escalating.
  • Touch the student, as this may be perceived as aggression or otherwise unwanted attention.
  • Ignore a gut reaction that you are in danger.

The Violent or Physically Destructive Student

Violence due to emotional distress is rare and typically occurs when the student's level of frustration has been so intense or of such an enduring nature as to erode all of the student's emotional controls. The adage "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" best applies here. Violent behavior is often associated with the use of alcohol and other drugs.

What You Can Do:

  • Assess your level of safety. Call University Police at (657) 278-2515 if you feel in danger.
  • Defuse and de-escalate the situation by remaining calm, speaking in a calm tone, and modeling appropriate behavior.
  • Prevent total frustration and helplessness by quickly and calmly acknowledging the intensity of the situation, e.g., “I can see you’re really upset and may be tempted to lash out.”
  • Explain clearly and directly what behaviors are acceptable without denying their feelings, e.g., “You certainly have the right to be angry, but breaking things is not okay.”
  • Get necessary help (send someone for other staff, security, etc.)
  • Stay safe: have easy access to a door; keep furniture between you and the student; keep door open if at all possible/appropriate; make certain that a staff, faculty, or another person is nearby and accessible; in some instances, you may wish to see the student only with another person present --- do not see the person alone if you fear for your safety.
  • Consult with the Office of Student Conduct at (657) 278-4436.
  • Consult with University Police at (657) 278-2515.
  • Submit a Student Conduct Referral form.


  • Meet alone with the student.
  • Ignore warning signs that the student is about to explode, e.g., yelling, screaming, clenched fists, threats.
  • Threaten, dare, taunt, or “push” the student into a corner.
  • Touch the student. o Stay in a situation in which you feel unsafe.
  • Ignore a gut reaction that you are in danger.
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Last Published 10/27/22

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