Helping Students in Distress
Students in Distress (Printable PDF version of this information)
The University has developed this informational guide to aid faculty and staff in assisting students that are experiencing difficulties.
Students in Crisis - A student whose behavior is markedly bizarre, disruptive, or dangerous; verbal or physical threats, active threats of suicide.
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Troubled Student - A student who appears confused, very sad, highly anxious, irritable, lacks motivation and/or concentration: may be thinking of suicide.
Potential to Harm Self or Others
|YES||NO or Don't Know|
Dean of Students 852-5787 or
Consultation or Questions
Campus Health Services (Belknap) 852-6479
Campus Health Services (HSC) 852-6446
Counseling Center (Belknap) 852-6585
Counseling center (HSC) 852-0996
Disability Resource Center 852-6938
Dean of Students Office 852-5787
Student Grievance Officer 852-6976
Student Advocate 852-5787
Student Care Team
Dean of Students Office 852-5787
University Police 852-6111
Centerstone Crisis and Information* 589-4313
*Notify an appropriate University official after consultation.
It is not a violation of FERPA to inform University Police, the Dean of Students Office or other consultative offices listed when reporting an incident of a student in distress.
If are are dealing with students in distress:
- Be aware of the location
- If you are concerned for your safety or the safety of others, call 911 immediately
- If the student is causing a disruption to the classroom or office environment but does not pose a threat: Reveiw the classroom disruption advisory on the inside of this publication.
When in doubt, call University Police
Classroom Disruption: An advisory from the Dean of Students office
FAQ on Helping Students in Distress
Classrooms, whether they are online or held in person, deserve to be free of disruption. The classroom could extend to those course-related discussions between an instructor, teaching assistant, or graduate assistant and a student during office hours. In an effort to be proactive and support education in the classroom, the Dean of Students Office offers the following advisory to assist instructors who may encounter a disruptive student
What is disruptive behavior?
Disruptive behavior is behavior that a reasonable person would view as substantially or repeatedly interfering with normal class activities. This includes in-person and online classes, and course-related discussion between a student and instructor/teaching assistant/graduate assistant during office hours.
Examples of Disruptive Behaviors
- Repeatedly entering and leaving the classroom without authorization.
- Making loud or distracting noises.
- Persisting in speaking without being recognized.
- Resorting to physical threats or personal insults.
How should I respond to a student who is being disruptive?
Remain calm and know who to call for assistance. Find someone to stay with the student while calls are made. See referral numbers on the front of this publication.
Remember that is it NOT your responsibility to provide the professional help needed for troubled or disruptive students. You need only make the necessary contact on their behalf.
- Share with your students your explicit expectations for conduct in the classroom, sooner rather than later.
- Serve as a role model for the conduct you expect from students.
- If inappropriate behavior is occurring, offer general words or caution (e.g., we have too many conversations happening at the moment. Let’s all focus on one topic).
- If the behavior is inappropriate, but not disruptive, speak with the student after class. Give the student a specific example of the behavior you want them to modify or eliminate.
- In the rare case when you need to address the student during class, do it firmly and with respect.
- A student who persists in disrupting a class may be directed to leave the classroom for the remainder of the period.
- If disruption is serious, and other reasonable measures have failed, the class may be adjourned and the University Police called (852-6111).
- Document and report disruptive incidents promptly, even if they seem minor.
- DON’T make it a public argument or use harsh language.
- DON’T blame, ridicule, or use sarcasm.
- DON’T use force or threats of force (except in immediate self-defense).
- DON’T ignore your own limitations.
Remember SAFETY FIRST.
If you are concerned for your own or other’s safety call University Police 852-6111 or 911.
What are some signs that a student may be in distress?
A student in distress may not be disruptive to others, but may exhibit behaviors which indicate something is wrong. Behaviors may include:
- Serious grade problems or a dramatic change in performance.
- Excessive absences or inconsistent attendance.
- Unusual or changed patterns of interaction—avoiding participation, excessive anxiety when called upon, domination of discussions.
- Other characteristics that suggest the student is having trouble managing stress—depressed, lethargic, or rapid speech; swollen, red eyes; marked change in personal dress and hygiene; sleeping during class.
- Repeated requests for special consideration, especially if the student appears uncomfortable or highly emotional while disclosing the circumstances prompting the request.
- New or repeated behavior which interferes with the instructor’s effective management of the immediate environment.
- Unusual or exaggerated emotional responses which appear inappropriate to the situation, irritability, or outbursts of anger.
How should I respond to a student that is troubled or showing signs of distress?
For students who are mildly or moderately troubled, you can choose to respond to them in the following ways:
- Deal directly with the behavior/problem according to classroom protocol.
- Address the situation privately with the individual(s).
- Consult with a colleague, Department Head, the Dean of Students Office, the Counseling Center, or Campus Health Services.
- Refer the student to an appropriate University resource. See referral phone numbers in this publication for help.
What types of warning signs are most serious?
Severely troubled or disruptive students may exhibit behaviors that signify an immediate crisis and necessitate emergency care such as:
- Highly disruptive behavior (e.g., hostility, aggression, violence).
- Inability to communicate clearly (e.g., garbled, slurred speech; unconnected, disjointed, or rambling thoughts).
- Loss of contact with reality (e.g., seeing or hearing things that others cannot see or hear; beliefs or actions greatly at odds with reality or probability).
- Stalking behaviors (threatening behavior, unwanted advances or communication).
- Inappropriate communications (e.g., including threatening letters, e-mail messages, harassment).
- Overtly suicidal thoughts (expression of a specific plan including referring to suicide as a current option or in a written assignment, statements of hopelessness, death allusions, thoughts of burdening others, and/or not belonging).
- Threats to harm self or others.
When a student expresses a direct threat to themselves or others, or acts in bizarre, highly irrational, or disruptive way, call University Police at 852-6111.
Response Guide for Difficult Student Situations
When responding to a difficult student situation:
- Don’t personalize the situation: take a breath and look at the situation as objectively as possible.
- Maintain records of interactions with difficult students.
- Identify the specific behavior of concern.
- Avoid creating an adversarial relationship.
- Look for the educational opportunity. An educational conversation from a University official can have a lasting impact on a student. Look for the opportunity to dialogue about the situation.
- Maintain professional communication. Address inappropriate, disruptive, or concerning behavior from the beginning. If you have a concern, do not wait to see if it happens again.
Use “I” statements:
- “I am happy to discuss this or speak with you about this matter; however, I do not/will not speak with another adult who is yelling (cursing, etc.)”
- “As an educator, I do not/will not speak to someone who uses vulgar/crass/ inappropriate/disrespectful language.”
- “I recognize how frustrated you are and I want t work with you. We need to take a step back for a minute so we can look at this situation together.”
For additional information about responding to specific difficult student situations, please visit https://louisville.edu/dos/facultystaff/difficult-student-guide.
Suicide Prevention Training
What is QPR Training?
QPR stands for Question, Persuade, and Refer — 3 simple steps that anyone can learn to help save a life from suicide.
Request QPR Training
To request QPR Training for your department or group, please submit the online request form at https://louisville.edu/dos/facultystaff/qpr-training
Student Care Team (SCT)
The purpose of the Student Care Team is to provide a regular opportunity for communication between departments, ensuring that all the resources of the University of Louisville are available to students in crisis.
Reporting a Concern to SCT
For more information about SCT, contact the Dean of Students Office, 852-5787. https://louisville.edu/dos/forms/sctreporting
Gender Based Harassment— Title IX
Policy and/or Objective
The University of Louisville’s Title IX Policy reflect the commitment to maintain a community that i free from harassment based on gender. Harass based upon gender is not acceptable at the University and is in violation of Title IX, Education Amendments of 1972. It is also inconsistent with University’s commitment to excellence and respe for all individuals.
If you have a concern about a harassment situation, contact the Title IX coordinator or a deputy coordinator.
Deputy Title IX Coordinator (Complaints against Students)
Dean of Students Office 2100 S. Floyd Street
Student Activities Center – W301 Louisville, KY 40208
Phone: (502) 852-5787
Deputy Title IX Coordinator (Complaints against Employees)
Human Resources 1980 Arthur Street
Louisville, KY 40208-2770
Phone: (502) 852-6688
Deputy Title IX Coordinator (Complaints against Non-University Community Members)
University of Louisville Police Department Floyd Street Parking
Louisville, KY 40292
Phone: (502) 852-7283