Policy and Procedures for Addressing Disruptive Behavior
The following model policy is adapted from policies at a variety of schools, including the University of Iowa and Loras College which are in turn adaptations of a model policy developed by Gary Pavela, J.D., of the University of Maryland.
The following model policy was also modified for Kean University by the National Center for Higher Education Risk Management (NCHERM).
If a student is behaving in a way which is threatening to the student or others, or which significantly interferes with the student’s education or the rights of others, the Vice President for Student Affairs may initiate these procedures. The Vice President for Student Affairs is empowered with the discretion to define within his/her professional judgment what is sufficiently threatening and/or disruptive to warrant invoking this procedure.
The first step will be to determine an appropriate initial action. The primary alternatives for initial action are as follows, but these do not preclude other actions based on a specific situation.
- Continue at the University with no restrictions. The University may take no action if it has decided, based on review of the referral information or other information presented, that the student may be allowed to continue with no restrictions. In those cases, care should be taken to provide opportunities for the student to be advised of accommodations and supportive services that are available. In cases where there are conduct actions pending, those actions should go forward.
- Continue in University pending further proceedings. The University may require that student meet certain conditions regarding the student’s behavior over a specified period of time if he/she is to remain enrolled. Such conditions here would include, for example, stopping classroom disruptiveness, or continuing only if the student avails him or herself of supportive services or accommodation arrangements. Failure to comply with the conditions, coupled with further disruptive behavior, may result in having additional conduct complaints added to any that were previously pending or deferred. At no point will the university engage in a behavioral contract or agreement with a student whose behaviors indicate harm or danger to any member of the community.
- Remaining enrolled at the University subject to conditions but with eligibility for university-owned residential agreement reviewed. Under certain circumstances, where other students’ living and learning environment is very likely to be disrupted by a student’s behavior, the Director of Residence Life will have the option of allocating alternative and more suitable living accommodations if such are available, or of terminating the accommodation agreement.
- Suspension of studies and/or separation from campus. If there is a pervasive pattern of disruptive or threatening behavior, or behaviors that are assaultive, suicidal, self-injurious or self-neglectful which present an imminent risk of injury to the student or others, the student may be suspended from studies and/or ordered off campus. In those situations, an interim hearing will be scheduled as soon as possible to determine if the interim suspension will continue.
Basis for Interim or Permanent Involuntary Medical Withdrawal
The University may withdraw a student if it is determined, by a preponderance of the evidence (that is more likely than not) that the student is engaging in or likely to engage in behavior which poses a substantial danger of causing imminent harm to the student, to others or to substantial property rights, or which renders the student unable to engage in basic required activities necessary to obtain an education, or that substantially impedes the lawful activities of others.
Standard for Addressing Potentially Suicidal Students
When suicidality is at issue (or any issue for which a student with a disability is facing separation from housing or the university), the objective of the hearing is to determine whether a student is a direct threat. A direct threat will exist when a student poses a significant risk to the health or safety of themselves or others. A significant risk constitutes a high probability of substantial harm, based on a timely, reasonable medical judgment. Significance will be determined by:
- The nature, duration and severity of the risk;
- The probability that the potentially threatening injury will actually occur;
- And, whether reasonable accommodations to policies, practices or procedures will sufficiently mitigate the risk.
Status of Conduct Proceedings
If the student has been accused of a violation of the Conduct Code, but it appears that the student is not capable of understanding the nature of the wrongfulness of the action, this medical withdrawal policy may be activated prior to issuance of a determination in the conduct process.
Students subject to conduct proceedings who wish to introduce relevant evidence of such lack of capacity must so inform the Hearing Officer in writing at least two business days prior to any conduct hearing. If the Hearing Officer determines that the evidence may have merit, the conduct complaint will be held in abeyance and procedures will be initiated to investigate resolution of the matter in accordance with this proposed policy and procedures.
If the student is ordered to be medically withdrawn from the University, or another action is taken under these provisions following a finding that the student’s behavior was the result of a lack of capacity, such action terminates the pending conduct action. If the student is found not to be subject to medical withdrawal or other action under this section, conduct proceedings may be reinstated.
Referral for Evaluation
The Vice President for Student Affairs may refer a student for evaluation by an independent licensed psychiatrist or psychologist chosen by the institution if it is believed that the student may meet the criteria set forth in this policy or if a student subject to conduct proceedings provides notification that information concerning a mental disorder will be introduced.
Students referred for evaluation will be so informed in writing with personal and/or certified delivery, and will be given a copy of these standards and procedures. The evaluation, conducted at University expense, must be completed within five business days from the date of the referral letter, unless an extension is granted by the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs. A student who fails to complete the evaluation in accordance with these standards and procedures and give permission for the results to be shared with appropriate administrators may be withdrawn on an interim basis, or referred for conduct action, or both.
The Vice President for Student Affairs may order interim medical suspension of a student where it is reasonable to believe that a substantial threat of harm to self or others exists. Students suspended under this provision will be notified by personal delivery, and will also be given a copy of these standards and procedures. The student will be given the option of appearing before the Vice President for Student Affairs (or designee) within 48 hours of the order for interim medical suspension to discuss only the following:
- the reliability of the information concerning the student’s behavior;
- whether the student’s behavior poses a danger of causing substantial, serious harm to the student or others, causing property damage, or directly impeding the lawful activities of others;
- Whether the student has completed an evaluation, in accordance with the standards and procedures.
The sole decisions to be made at the hearing or whether interim medical suspension should be continued or modified, and whether medical withdrawal should remain in consideration.
Involuntary Medical Withdrawal
If the medical evaluation supports medical withdrawal, a hearing will be scheduled before the Hearing Officer and the director of the health center. The student will be informed, in writing with certified delivery of the time, date and place, and will be given at least two business days to independently review the psychological or psychiatric evaluation prior to the hearing. In addition, the student will be notified of who is expected to present information at the hearing, and is expected to notify the Hearing Officer in advance of any witnesses the student expects to bring.
If the evaluation does not support medical withdrawal, the student will be notified. If other action is pending, the appropriate individuals will be notified and will proceed with their actions.
The student and the student’s representatives may present information for or against involuntary Medical Withdrawal and will be given the opportunity to ask questions of others presenting information. The hearing will be conversational and non-adversarial; however the Hearing Officer in charge of the hearing will exercise active control over the proceeding, to include deciding who may present information. Formal rules of evidence will not apply. Anyone who disrupts the hearing may be excluded.
A written decision will be rendered by the committee within two business days, stating the reasons for its determination. The decision will be delivered to the student by certified means. If the student is withdrawn, the notification will include information concerning when reapplication may be made, as well as specifying any conditions of reinstatement. The decision of the Hearing Officer is subject to appeal to the Vice President for Student Affairs. The decision is based upon the preponderance of the evidence.
A written and taped record of the proceeding will be kept and a copy made available to the student.
A student seeking readmission who has been medically withdrawn must request reinstatement, and may not reenter the university without providing competent medical evidence that the medical condition no longer exists, or is sufficiently under treatment so as to remove any substantial likelihood of reoccurrence of the situation which caused medical withdrawal. The university may require the student, at the student’s cost, to undergo a medical evaluation by a licensed mental health professional of the university’s choosing. The results of such evaluation must be disclosed to appropriate university personnel. A student who is permanently withdrawn is not eligible for reinstatement or readmission.
A medical withdrawal is not considered a conduct action, though a prior medical withdrawal may be considered in subsequent conduct hearings involving the student.
Support at Hearings
The student subject to either an Interim Suspension Hearing or an Involuntary Medical Withdrawal hearing may be assisted in the hearing by a family member and/or a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist, or in lieu of a licensed psychologist or psychiatrist, by a member of the faculty or staff of the university or other support person at the discretion of the Hearing Officer. The student may be accompanied by legal counsel, although that counsel may only provide legal advice to the student, and may not address the panel. The student will be expected to speak for him or herself whenever possible.