Responding to Disruptive Behavior
As a member of the Kent State University community, you may observe behaviors which are disruptive and concerning. The following information will be useful in determining the most appropriate course of action.
What is Disruptive Behavior?
Any behavior that interferes with students, faculty, or staff and their access to an appropriate and/or safe educational or work environment is considered disruptive.
Examples of Disruptive Behavior
- Behavior that draws inappropriate attention to oneself
- Verbal outbursts (e.g., arguing, yelling, screaming)
- Words or actions that intimidate or harass others
- Words or actions that cause others to fear for their personal safety
- Threats of physical assault or violence
It is important to note that “disruptive behavior” as defined in this section may differ from classroom disruptions.
How should I deal with a disruptive person?
Disruptive behavior should not be ignored. It is important to remain calm. Remind yourself that the person is upset about the situation—not with you. Tell the person that such behavior is inappropriate and that there are consequences for failing to alter or improve the disruptive behavior. Many disruptive situations involve anger. Recognize that the period of peak anger usually lasts 20-30 seconds. Often it is best to wait out the initial outburst before addressing the individual. If you feel threatened, seek to remove yourself from the situation or secure appropriate assistance.
Disruptive behavior should be documented. After the situation has been resolved or the current incident has subsided, write a factual, detailed account of what occurred. Use concrete terms. Be specific. Share the documentation with the leadership in your administrative unit or academic department.
DO call 911 if there is an immediate threat to the safety of individuals.
DO actively listen to the person, through the anger.
DO acknowledge the feelings of the individual.
DO allow the person to vent and to tell you what is upsetting to him/her. Use the silence to allow the person to talk it out.
DO set limits. Explain clearly and directly what behaviors are acceptable (e.g., “I will be willing to speak with you as long as you lower your voice”) and not acceptable (e.g., “You have a right to be angry, but breaking things is not OK”).
DO be firm, steady, direct, and honest, but also compassionate.
DO trust your intuition.
DO focus on what you can do to help resolve the situation.
DO suggest resources; make personal referrals when possible, and call ahead to brief the person.
DO report the behavior to the leadership in your administrative unit or academic department.
DO consult with a campus resource. If in doubt, contact the Dean of Students.
DON’T ignore the disruptive behavior.
DON’T interrupt, particularly during the first 20-30 seconds of peak anger.
DON’T minimize the situation.
DON’T enter into an argument or shouting match.
DON’T blame, ridicule, or use sarcasm.
DON’T touch or become physical.
DON’T ignore your own limitations
If you feel threatened, concerned for your safety, or concerned for the safety of others, call 911.
In circumstances where individuals may benefit from psychological services and additional support, and there is not concern for the individual’s safety or the safety of others, urge the person to seek professional help, and suggest the following:
Kent State University Students may contact:
- Psychological Services of University Health Services 330-672-2487
- University Health Services 24-hour Nurse Line 330-672-2326
Services provided are confidential and do not affect academic records.
Kent State University Staff or Faculty may contact:
- IMPACT Employee Assistance and Work/Life Program 24 hours a day 800-227-6007