For Faculty and Staff
For emergencies or immediate safety concerns, call VCU Police at (804) 828-1234 or call 911.
If you are concerned about a student, share a concern and we will evaluate the report during normal business hours to determine the type of follow-up necessary to address the concerns. If the student is disruptive and uncooperative, behaves as if under the influence of a substance, appears volatile or dangerous, or is demonstrating immediate harm to self or others, call VCU Police at (804) 828-1234 or call 911.
Please recognize that, due to our responsibility for student privacy obligations under Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), we use discretion to appropriately address your concerns and we may not always be able to provide you with follow-up information.
When to Refer
If you are concerned that a student is in immediate crisis, contact VCU Police at (804) 828-1234 or call 911. VCU Police officers are trained specifically to work with students in crisis. Otherwise, if you are concerned for a student who is showing signs of distress, please contact the Dean of Students Office by sharing a concern or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org for guidance and support.
University faculty and staff play a central role in creating a caring, supportive environment for students and the VCU community. You are often in an excellent position to provide information and assistance to students in distress. You are not expected to provide personal counseling to students; however, you can play an important role in encouraging students to use campus resources and bringing concerns to the attention of university officials.
All members of the VCU community are strongly encouraged to report behaviors or incidents of concern by sharing a concern or contacting the Dean of Students office at (804) 828-8940. Under certain circumstances, faculty and staff are obligated to report acts of violence, threatening behavior, or misconduct. See VCU’s Duty to Report Policy for specific information.
Who to Refer
If the student is disruptive and uncooperative, appears volatile or dangerous, or is demonstrating immediate harm to self or others, call VCU Police at (804) 828-1234 or call 911. If the student is distressed or causing a disruption but does not pose a threat, share a concern with the Dean of Students Office.
May be irritable, sad, unduly anxious, withdrawn, confused, lacking motivation or concentration, seeking constant attention, demonstrating bizarre, erratic, or concerning behaviors including self-harm.
Key Questions that May Help Identify a Distressed Student
- Has the student’s personality changed?
- Has the student’s behavior changed?
- Is the change in behavior gradual or is it sudden?
- What kind of support network does the student have?
- Is the student taking steps to improve their situation?
Academic Indicators of a Distressed Student
- Persistent unexplained absences
- Decline in quality/quantity of work
- Extreme disorganization or erratic performance
- Continual seeking of special permission (extensions, make-up work)
- Disproportionate response to grades or other evaluations
Emotional Indicators of a Distressed Student
- Significant change in mood
- Inappropriate emotional outbursts, yelling or aggressive comments
- Withdrawal or isolation from others
- Expression of hopelessness or suicidal thoughts
- Disturbing or disruptive social media comments
Physical Indicators of a Distressed Student
- Deterioration in physical appears or personal hygiene
- Excessive fatigue, exhaustion
- Noticeable cuts, bruises, burns
- Disorganized speech, rapid or slurred speech, confusion
- Substance abuse
Disruptive or Dangerous Students
Interfere in VCU's learning environment with behavior that is reckless, disorderly, paranoid, aggressive, defiant, destructive, threatening, dangerous to self, or dangerous to others.
Disruptive or Threatening Behaviors
- Disturbing or concerning material on social media
- Entering class late or leaving early
- Failing to respect the rights of others
- Frequent anger
- Inordinate or inappropriate demands for time or attention
- Use of profanity or pejorative language
- Physical violence (e.g. shoving, grabbing, or assault)
- Destruction of property
- Possession of weapons
- Sexual misconduct/ violence and sex/gender discrimination
- Threat to others
- Threat to self, attempts to harm self
- Suicidal thoughts
- Verbal threat to harm
- Verbal violence (e.g. taunting or badgering)
If the student is disruptive and uncooperative, appears volatile or dangerous, behaves as if under the influence of a substance, or is demonstrating immediate harm to self or others, call VCU Police at (804) 828-1234 or call 911.
Responding to Distressed Behavior
You are strongly encouraged to connect students with University Counseling Services and other campus resources that might best serve their needs. If a student appears to be in crisis, offer to walk them to University Counseling Services. Even if the student has been connected or referred to counseling, please share a concern online or follow up with the Dean of Students Office directly at (804) 828-8940. We receive reports from across the university and have the ability to centralize information so concerns can be assessed contextually and situationally.
Responding to Disruptive or Threatening Behavior
If the student is disruptive and uncooperative, appears volatile or dangerous, behaves as if under the influence of a substance, or is demonstrating immediate harm to self or others, call VCU Police at (804) 828-1234 or call 911. If the student is distressed or causing a disruption but does not pose a threat, share a concern or follow up with the Dean of Students Office directly during business hours at (804) 828-8940.
Mandatory Responding to Dangerous Behavior
If threatened by any student's conduct to the point of reasonable fear of immediate harm to self, others, or property:
- Leave the area immediately.
- Call the VCU Police Department at (804) 828-1234 or call 911 to request that they come to the location. Inform the police if it is a repeat occurrence.
- Anyone who observes what appears to be threatening behavior must report it to the Dean of Students Office by sharing a concern or contacting the Dean of Students office at (804) 828-8940.
- University employees, who observe what appears to be threatening behavior, must also report it to the Academic Dean or designated contact.
What Happens Next
Online reports of concern about distressed or disruptive/ threatening students are forwarded to the appropriate university officials for follow up, depending on the nature of the concern. Please be aware that online reports may not receive an immediate response. When possible and appropriate, you may be provided with an update on the situation. Information is shared on a need to know basis.
The university operates two interdisciplinary teams of university officials that assess, respond, and manage issues of concern involving students, faculty or staff. The Student Assistance & Support Team (SAS) primarily addresses students exhibiting behavioral or mental health concerns who do not pose a risk of harm to others; whereas the Threat Assessment Team identifies, monitors, and coordinates the management of threats to the university community. It is not your responsibility to determine which team should address a concern or to provide assistance to the student that is beyond your scope of knowledge and ability. If you share a concern, it will be referred to the appropriate team.
Student Assistance & Support Team (SAS)
The Student Assistance & Support (SAS) Team serves the university and individual students by coordinating prevention, intervention, and support efforts to assist students involved in psychological distress, inappropriate behaviors and harm to self. The SAS Team provides a centralized mechanism to review concerns and address the needs of students through a variety of interventions, referrals and follow ups. The team is composed of key personnel from the Division of Student Affairs, University Counseling Services, University Student Health Services, the Office of Student Conduct & Academic Integrity, Residential Life & Housing, VCU Police and other units as deemed appropriate. The team meets weekly and is available to faculty, staff, or students for case consultation to address significant student situations. Information shared is limited in its dissemination on a need-to-know basis. Concerns should be submitted via the share a concern form.
Threat Assessment Team (TAT)
Pursuant to the Code of Virginia Section § 23.1-805, the university has designated its Threat Assessment and Management Team and Violence Prevention Committee (TAT) to establish procedures for the prevention of violence on campus, including assessment of and intervention with individuals whose behavior poses a threat to the safety of the university community. The university has charged TAT with identifying, monitoring and coordinating the management of threats to the university community.
The Senior Vice Provost for Student Affairs and Chief of VCU Police co-chair TAT, and its membership includes representatives from student affairs, university police, human resources, counseling services, residence life, and others as determined necessary by co-chairs. University legal counsel attends TAT meetings, in an advisory capacity, as available.
Report to TAT information about a threat to the safety of any student, employee or campus visitor that does not require an immediate response. Share a concern online or call the Dean of Students Office at (804) 828-8940 during regular business hours.
Differentiating Classroom Disruptions from Concerning Behaviors
While some classroom disruptions can be signs of a student in distress, many do not indicate a higher level of concern. Common examples include arriving late to class, inappropriate comments or questions, and interrupting the lecture or discussion. By sharing your concerns with the student in a private setting, you’ll have an opportunity to assess whether the student would benefit from additional support.
Suggested Actions for Confronting Disruptive Classroom Behavior
In most cases, disruptive classroom behavior can be addressed through a simple conversation with the student involved. We recommend the following, four step approach to resolving most concerns. Consider documenting all verbal communications with a written email message to the student, summarizing the conversation. It is best practice to keep a log describing disruptive behavior and conversations/ meetings that have taken place with the student.
- Ask the student to speak with you privately. This can occur during or after class but it is best to do so at a time when it will be least disruptive to the rest of the class (during a break, during group work time, following class). In most cases, we recommend speaking with the student during or immediately following the same class in which the behavior occurred.
- Inform the student of the problem behavior. In most cases, it is best to express concern without judgment. An example might include: “I wanted to speak with you because I noticed during class that you [describe behavior].” It’s important to focus on the behaviors and to avoid anything that might sound like a judgment of the student themselves – after all, we don’t know what is causing these behaviors.You might also use this time as an opportunity to share the impact of their behavior. An example might include, “When I see you [describe behavior], I find it very distracting. I think other students might be distracted as well and find it hard to focus on what is being shared.”
- Inform the student of your expectations for their behavior going forward. This can be done simply be reiterating that the behavior described cannot happen going forward. In most cases, however, it is best to frame this part of the conversation in terms of what you WANT the student to do. For example, “Going forward, it will be important for you to save some of your comments until we have an opportunity for group discussion.”
- Ask the student if they can abide by your expectations going forward. Often neglected, this last step is used to ensure that the student received the message and understands that you plan to hold the student accountable. It also offers the student an opportunity to object and share their own concerns. An example here might include, “Does what I’m sharing sound reasonable to you? Do you think you can continue in class without [describe behavior]?”
Follow-Up Questions to Ask Yourself after Interacting with the Student
- How did the student react to your feedback? Were they accepting and understanding or were they defiant and irrational? In most cases (nearly all), students will react by accepting the observations raised and providing an apology. If this is not the case, it may indicate a larger issue that is likely impacting other aspects of the student’s experience.
- Did the student over-react to your feedback by becoming overly-emotional? If so, the student might be struggling personally and need additional guidance or support to manage. Examples of “over-reacting” might include crying outbursts, deep physical reactions, panic attacks, etc.
- Did the student share a personal issue/problem as a way to explain the issues involved? If so, then the student’s behavior might be a sign that the student is struggling to cope with the problem by themselves. Often the stress of a personal issue may impact a student’s ability to focus or might cause the student to act out in some way.
- Were the student’s thoughts logical and connected or were they disjointed or confused? If the student had trouble keeping their thoughts together, seemed unfocused or distracted, or if the student appeared confused, these might be signs of a greater issue for which additional support might be necessary.
When to Remove a Student from Class
Generally speaking, faculty are responsible for managing conduct within their classrooms. Faculty may ask a student to leave for the remainder of a class when the student’s behavior results in disruption to the class. The student should be allowed to return to the following class (i.e. a faculty member can not remove a student beyond the first class). Faculty members cannot arbitrarily prevent a student from attending class. The student can be referred to the Dean of Students Office. If a student escalates further or becomes aggressive, we recommend the faculty member end the class immediately and contact VCU Police at (804) 828-1234 and share a concern with the Dean of Students Office.