Disruptive Classroom Behavior

Disruptive behavior can assume many forms. It may be:

  • The student in your class who persistently arrives late or leaves early;
  • The students who talk incessantly while you are delivering a lecture;
  • The student who loudly and frequently interrupts the flow of class with questions or interjections; or
  • The student who becomes belligerent when you confront his or her inappropriate behavior in class.

It is important to differentiate between disruptive classroom behavior (that which directly interferes with the ability of an instructor to teach or the ability of other students to benefit from the classroom experience) and behavior that is merely rude or uncivil. While the latter may become disruptive when it is repetitive or persistent, it usually is best addressed by example and suasion.

Disruptive student behavior is a detriment to the academic community because it interferes with the learning process for other students, inhibits the ability of instructors to teach most effectively, and diverts university resources away from the educational mission. It is also a concern because it can be an indication that the disruptive student may be experiencing conflict or distress and may benefit from support services.

Disruptive Behavior and Disciplinary Action

When less formal interventions prove inadequate or ineffective, it is appropriate for an instructor to initiate disciplinary action. Intervention by the Department of Public Safety results in the report of the matter being forwarded to Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards. When Public Safety officers have not been involved, the instructor can write and forward a report identifying the student, the date and location of the incident and a summary of the incident directly to SJACS.

When disruptive behavior is reported to Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards, the instructor reporting the behavior will be contacted concerning the desired outcome. Remedies provided through the office may include disciplinary probation, a behavior contract with the student, anger management counseling or other educational interventions, or, in more severe cases, removal from the class (a student may not be removed from class permanently without a student conduct review).

Following this consultation, the student will be required to meet with a judicial officer to discuss the reported behavior. It is possible that the matter can be resolved administratively without the instructor having to be involved in the process any further. In some cases, it may be necessary to convene a panel and conduct a formal hearing in the matter. In these cases, the instructor is involved as the complainant at the hearing.

Consultation Concerning Disruptive Behavior

Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards provides consultation concerning preventing and addressing disruptive and inappropriate behavior. Instructors may contact the office (STU 206; 213-821-7373; sjacs@usc.edu) with any questions or requests concerning student behavioral issues.

For more information about signs of distress or disturbing behavior and whom to contact, please refer to the USC Emergency Response Cardinal Folder for faculty and staff.

Important Telephone Numbers

Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards

Department for Public Safety:
For 24 hour emergency assistance or to report a crime:
UPC: 213-740-4321
HSC: 323-442-1000

For 24 hour non-emergency assistance or information:
UPC: 213-740-6000
HSC: 323-442-1200

Student Counseling Center