Faculty and staff are first to notice student’s cries for help, conduct officer says.
By Neven Jones
Faculty play an important role in recognizing and addressing disruptive student behavior patterns. Teachers should promptly address these behaviors to avoid letting them get out of control, Tracy Floyd, student conduct officer, said in a lecture during convocation week.
Student conduct officers Floyd and Manuel Flores spoke to faculty and staff Wednesday in Nail Technical Center about SOBI and non-academic discipline.
Floyd primarily investigates allegations of misconduct and works with Strategies Of Behavioral Intervention, or SOBI.
“When I receive a SOBI, my main focus is getting the student the support that they need. A lot of the SOBIs end in referrals. They are not punitive,” Floyd said.
SOBI is a national program that began as a result of the Virginia Tech shootings in April 2007. SOBI is sometimes referred to as Behavioral Intervention Teams, or BIT, Floyd said.
The Virginia Tech shootings were investigated by several law enforcement agencies from campus police to the FBI, Floyd said. The agencies worked to try to figure out the cause and how to prevent it from happening again.
It was discovered that the student responsible for the shootings had issues all over campus. He had issues with the housing department, English department, campus police and interactions with the counseling department. All of these issues were handled separately and none of the departments were talking to each other, Floyd said.
“No one was identifying that the student had a pattern of behavior that was not specific to a location or issue,” Floyd said.
As a result, SOBI and BIT teams began forming all over the country as an effort to funnel information into one location so patterns of behavior could be examined, Floyd said.
Teachers should let students know upfront what they consider to be disruptive behavior by putting it on the syllabus, Floyd said.
“When you begin each semester, think about what your deal-breakers are,” Floyd said.
If you don’t allow food in the classroom or students coming in 10 minutes late, let them know. Do not assume they know, Floyd said.
If students understand what the expectations are of the classroom, they can function much better, Floyd said.
Teachers should redirect students on first incidence without making a big deal about it. For example, if a student answers their cell phone, tell the student to leave the classroom if they need to make a call and document the behavior, she said. Follow up with the student via email and copy the chair.
Ongoing disruptive behavior is often a symptom of something larger. Teachers should meet with these students privately so they do not use valuable class time and the students will feel more comfortable opening up, Floyd said.
Teachers should consider the safety of their environment when meeting with a student with hostile behavior, Floyd said.
“Never meet with a student that you have concerns about alone. Make sure that somebody knows that you are meeting with them,” Floyd said.
Before setting up these meetings, teachers should ask a police officer or another professor to stay nearby.
Campus police officers also can escort teachers to and from classrooms if they are concerned for their safety, Floyd said.
Many students do not realize all the resources this college provides. By reaching out to students and letting them know about these resources, teachers can help point them in the right direction, Floyd said.
The vision is to become the best student conduct office in the district, the state, and in the country, Flores said.
Flores mainly works with non-academic discipline issues. He believes it is important for students to accept responsibility for their behavior.
“We want to find a way to somehow convey to students how important it is for them to accept responsibility for their conduct. Conduct is an integral part of personal development and academic success,” Flores said.
Incident reports can be filled out for any form of misconduct.
Incident reports are real-time forms. Once they are submitted, they go directly to Floyd and Flores.
The system that is used to submit the forms allows the conduct officers to look at the reports from the other Alamo Colleges as well, Floyd said.
This allows them to see if a student has a pattern of behavior at any of the other Alamo Colleges.
The same form is used for SOBI and non-academic discipline.
All incidents reported to the student conduct office are treated as allegations and the office works to find out if they are true. If they are true, the office will sanction the student with anything from a verbal reprimand, community service or in some cases expulsion, Flores said.
“The purpose is to correct behavior that is not acceptable, and, hopefully, through some of those exercises that can happen,” Flores said.
These decisions are not made unilaterally, she said. Floyd and Flores touch base with Dr. Robert Vela, vice president for student and academic success, and Emma Mendiola, dean of student affairs, and agree on the sanction.
The difference between a SOBI and non-academic discipline is in the desired outcome.
If the teacher wants somebody to reach out to the student and help them, that is a SOBI.
If the student is repeatedly not complying with a teacher’s instructions and the teacher needs an administrator to explain proper conduct to the student and there are consequences, that is non-academic discipline, Floyd said.
Because of the confidentiality of the student, the conduct officers may not be able to give the person who reported the student any information about the case, particularly the SOBIs, Floyd said.
“Know that I investigate every case and I work every case to its conclusion,” Floyd said.
A SOBI guide can be found on the student affairs web page.
For more information, call 210-486-0930.