Addressing disruptive classroom behavior

Guidance on how to manage a student who exhibits disruptive behavior in the classroom.

Disruptive behavior may persistently or grossly interfere with the academic learning environment, thereby making it difficult for other students to learn and instructors to teach. If you ever feel that you or anyone in your class is in immediate danger or have a medical emergency call 911.

The following guidelines are intended to assist instructors in dealing with these situations. They are not intended to provide information on classroom management or to tell instructors how to teach.

The Division of Teaching and Learning provides guidance and policies to support faculty in planning and response to conflict and disruptions in the classroom and other learning environments.

Planning for and Responding to Conflict and Disruption in the Classroom – Guidelines and Policies


There are two fundamental principles to observe:

  1. Students have the right to express opinions relevant to the subject matter of a course;
  2. Instructors have the right to guide classroom discussion and to set reasonable limits on the classroom time made available to students for the expression of their opinions. The responsibility for striking a balance between these principles rests with instructors.

A good resource on disruptive students, available through the UW Library system is Coping with the Disruptive College Student: A Practical Model by Gerald Amada, PhD.

Threatening Behavior and Removing a Student

Threatening Behavior

Any time a student’s classroom behavior is threatening towards any person (including themselves), the University of Wisconsin Police Department should be called immediately.

There may be situations occurring outside the classroom where instructors feel threatened or very uncomfortable with a student’s behavior. Instructors should report these situations to the Office of Conduct and Community Standards and/or the University police so appropriate interventions can happen before the matter escalates.

Student takes notes during a class.

Removing a Student from the Classroom

If a student is disruptive and does not stop when asked by the instructor, the instructor should direct that student to leave the classroom.

If they refuse to leave, the University police should be called to remove the student. For such cases of repeated, blatant, and clearly irresolvable disruptive behaviors, instructors should document the situation. It is very important that the documentation is as detailed as possible. The instructor should then contact the drop-in staff member in the Office of Student Assistance and Support. The drop-in staff member will consult with appropriate staff and will help the instructor with determining a response, which may include connecting instructor with the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards to initiate disciplinary proceedings.

Students removed from a classroom may be permitted to return to the class after agreeing to the condition that there will be no further disruptive behavior in the class. Such students also may be sanctioned through the University non-academic misconduct procedures, with the Office of Student Conduct and Community Standards acting as the investigating officer.

The removal of a student from a class, voluntarily/involuntarily, and/or temporarily/ permanently; is a serious step, not to be taken lightly, and therefore must be handled utilizing whatever due process is appropriate.

Guidelines and resources

Some disruptive students may have emotional or mental health disorders. While such students may be considered to have a disability, and thus fall under the protections of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, they are expected to meet the same standards of behavior as any student. Instructors should set standards for classroom behavior (including in the syllabus) and enforce them for all students, in accordance with principles of academic freedom.

Some disruptive behavior can be dealt with by the instructor in an informal manner by speaking directly with the student and setting clear expectations for further conduct in the classroom. Instructors may wish to consult with their Department Chair and/or other colleagues for help and advice in such matters.

Since there are a wide variety of disruptive behaviors possible, the instructor may want to discuss the student’s behavior with a member of University Health Services (608-265-5600) and/or the Office of Student Assistance and Support (608-263-5700). These staff will assist the instructor in developing strategies for working with the student.