Students of Concern
If you believe someone is in imminent danger of harm to self or others,
call the UNO Campus Police immediately at 504-280-6666 or dial 911.
As faculty or staff at the University of New Orleans, you are part of unique and caring
community that provides comfort and understanding on a daily basis. At the same time
and as a result, faculty and staff members may be in a unique position to be aware
of students who may be struggling with academic concerns, personal concerns and or
mental health concerns. Following is information which may prove useful when assisting
students with such concerns including:
Basic Issues of Civil Rights
Before we discuss particular issues, it is critically important that you understand
that the basic underlying issue in many cases is what the law tells us about basic
rights. In this country, everyone has the right to "life, liberty, and the pursuit
of happiness," which means that individual rights are held in high regard. This also
means that the restraint of individual rights is taken very seriously and will only
occur under extraordinary circumstances. To put it bluntly, everyone has the right
to be as odd or different as they like, until they cross a point at which they may
be considered by the law to be in imminent danger of harm to themselves or others.
Imminent danger is seen as a transitory state, that is, it may come and go depending
Being an Adult (Student) at a University
The laws of the United States confer the status of "adult" on all people on their
18th birthday. By law, that means that anyone 18 years or older is entitled to all
rights of citizenship (unless otherwise amended). This includes the ability to make
contracts and to confidentiality of various services (medical, dental, mental health,
etc.) or events (grades in college). Faculty and staff in a variety of areas are bound
to maintain the confidentiality of information about college students by a variety
of federal and state laws. In particular, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), restricts the university's ability to give information about students to anyone
outside the university without the student's written consent. It should be noted that,
per FERPA, medical records and mental health records (such as those maintained by
UNO Counseling Services) are not part of a student’s academic record and a different
level of confidentiality applies. In addition to federal law, state laws regarding
confidentiality of records (La. R.S. 13:3734) limit the ability of licensed professionals in certain occupations (including mental
health professions) from disclosing information to anyone both within and outside
the university without the written consent of the client.
Responding to a Distressed Student or a Student of Concern in a University Setting
While it might seem that the information provided above suggests there is little that
can be done, the university provides procedures for dealing with distressed students
or students who become of concern to faculty, staff, or other students. In most cases,
a student will become a concern because of some behavior they exhibit – an assignment
the student completes that causes concern, acting out or acting inappropriately in
a public situation, making threats to harm self or others, etc. Unfortunately, faculty,
staff, and students do not normally report these disruptions, hoping that events will
take care of themselves. In most cases they do. However, it is important to understand
that you may see a behavior which, when added to others' information about which you
may not know, may help university officials understand a situation with more clarity.
When a member of the UNO community becomes concerned by the behavior of a student
the procedure requires that community member (faculty, staff, or student) to report
their concern to the Office of Student Accountability and Advocacy (504-280-6222).
The Office of Student Accountability and Advocacy will determine what steps may be
necessary following the report. These might include calling the student in to discuss
concerns and referring the student to other campus and/or community services. It may
also lead to a judicial procedure where the student will have the right to due process
in the determination of any consequences of their behavior.
Differences between School Counseling in a K-12 Setting and Services Offered at UNO
The services offered by a university counseling center such as UNO Counseling Services
are quite different from those available from school counselors in typical K-12 settings.
Students in K-12 settings often are able to "drop-in" to speak to a school counselor
"just to talk" or possibly to de-escalate when highly distressed. Additionally, school
counselors may be asked to reach out to a student and/or pull a student from a classroom
to address behavioral concerns or when school faculty/staff have specific concerns
about a student. If the school counselor is concerned a student may have a mental
health issue warranting clinical attention, the counselor will typically refer the
student for clinical mental health assessment and related services. Another notable
difference between school counseling in a K-12 setting and clinical mental health
services in a university setting is that (most) university students are adults (as
defined by law) who can consent to confidential mental health counseling. When a university
student has mental health concerns, he/she can choose to seek services at a counseling
center such as UNO Counseling Services. Unlike school counselors, Counseling Services
staff cannot seek out (or directly solicit) students by inviting or encouraging them
to seek mental health counseling. Additionally, faculty or staff may, at times, want
to require (mandate) counseling because of concerns about a student’s mood or behavior,
or as part of disciplinary sanctions. While this may be well-intentioned, if a student
does not perceive a need for counseling and/or has no specific goals for counseling,
it is unlikely that much can be accomplished by meeting with a counselor.
As noted above, Counseling Services provides clinical mental health services, specifically,
problem assessment and short-term mental health counseling for concerns which can
reasonably be addressed within a limited number of sessions. Students seeking services
at Counseling Services are first scheduled for an assessment session during which
a counselor will conduct a thorough assessment of the student's presenting concerns
and history, and identify the student’s goals for counseling. This information is
used to make treatment recommendations. The primary goal of Counseling Services' staff
is to assist students with identifying the appropriate resources and services needed
to address their mental health concerns. If the counselor believes the student's concerns
can be addressed in short-term counseling such as is offered at Counseling Services,
the counselor will work with the student to develop specific, measurable, attainable,
relevant and time-limited treatment goals and develop an evidence-based treatment
plan specifically related to the student's concerns. If, based on clinical judgment,
the counselor determines that the student's concerns and/or counseling goals are beyond
the scope of services offered at Counseling Services or if the student desires ongoing
treatment without session limits, referrals will be provided.
How to Respond if You Believe a Student is an Imminent Danger to Self or Others
The laws of the State of Louisiana are absolutely clear about this. If you believe
that anyone is in imminent danger of harm to self or others, you should immediately
call the local police department where you know the student to be. If they are on
campus, you should call the UNO Campus Police (504-280-6666). If they are in another
location, you can dial 911 and tell the operator which jurisdiction you are seeking
– they will connect you. You must call a police agency because, in Louisiana, only
police officers have the authority to detain someone, regardless of the reason for
the detention. Mental health providers, health providers, and student life staff are
not equipped or trained to take someone into protective custody. Failing to call the
UNO Campus Police may mean that the help a student needs is delayed. If a student
is in imminent danger because of a medical condition (bleeding, ingestion of pills
or other substances, seizure, etc.), even if you believe it is a suicide gesture or
attempt, you must call UNO Campus Police on campus or 911 off-campus and ask for medical
assistance. Medical issues take priority over any other issues. If you have time
after calling emergency services, contacting the Office of Student Accountability
and Advocacy would also be helpful.
Why not just call Counseling Services?
Counseling Services staff is able to provide consultations about concerns you may
have about a student's behavior and to advise you about next steps you may take.
However, state laws and professional ethical standards prohibit licensed mental health
professionals from "soliciting" clients, even when a third party may be making a credible
report of concern. In most cases, in addition to consulting with faculty and staff
about their concerns, Counseling Services staff will refer callers to the Office of
Student Accountability and Advocacy to report their concerns there as well. The Office
of Student Accountability and Advocacy is the office designated on campus to investigate
concerns about students and has much latitude in its ability to approach and follow
up with students.
I think a student has a mental health problem. Why call the Office of Student Accountability
This will take some explaining, so please bear with us. By law, an adult is responsible
for his or her behavior until a court determines they are not responsible. When a
student acts out, for whatever reason, the university and the student are best served
when behavior, rather than what may appear to be underlying issues, is the focus of
any intervention or consequences a student must face. The Office of Student Accountability
and Advocacy can and will sort out what issues may be mitigating circumstances that
impacted the acting out and may impact any consequences imposed upon the student.
That is a basic responsibility of the Office of Student Accountability and Advocacy
and no other office or individual on campus. If a student is believed to have some
underlying mental or physical health problems which are exacerbating or are being
exacerbated by the situation, the Office of Student Accountability and Advocacy will
refer students to appropriate campus and/or community resources in addition to any
other recommendations. However, at the most basic level, the student is responsible
for being able to maintain appropriate behavior. Those who cannot or will not maintain
appropriate behavior, for whatever reason, cannot be allowed to continue as members
of the community.
As a community, we must balance our response to mental health concerns. On one extreme,
allowing such concerns to excuse inappropriate behavior without consequences creates
a disruptive and unproductive learning environment. On the other extreme, attempting
to immediately label and remove any student from the university because of a "mental
health issue" (for which they may already be seeking treatment) violates basic civil
rights and should give all of us pause for concern about who is making decisions about
our own behavior..
Am I creating situations in the classroom that make things more difficult for my
Most of us likely believe that the college experience should include some kind of
personal as well as academic growth. A few things regarding the demographics of UNO
students are important to keep in mind this regard.
First of all, many of our UNO students don't fit the profile of "traditionally-aged"
students in that the average age of our undergraduates is about 25 or 26 (vs. the
late teens/early 20's). As such, many of our students come with significantly more
life experience than traditionally-aged students. Also, some of our students come
with a history of some type of mental health concerns including depression, anxiety
and emotional, physical or sexual abuse. As a result, some course assignments, which
may seem benign and/or important for personal growth, serve to bring up painful memories
which might disorient students and make it harder for them to deal with the normal
demands of college.
Many professional organizations have added sections to their ethical standards which
encourage instructors to think carefully about including assignments which force students
to disclose personal information. Those standards may also require that, in addition
to being noted in a syllabus, any course curricula that require self-disclosure be
identified in the university catalog so potential students can have knowledge of that
requirement before enrolling in a course. All academic disciplines are encouraged
strongly to examine their curricula for required self-disclosures and discuss the
nature and purpose of the requirements. Those that are not absolutely essential to
the learning process should be considered for replacement.
Conclusions and Additional Resources
The link below is to a PDF providing additional information concerning warning signs
of troubled students.
We hope you have found this information helpful. If you have any questions, please
feel free to contact Counseling Services
We also hope that you take a few moments to browse the Counseling Services website
to see the types of materials and information we make available to the community including
self-help materials, online screenings, and other online resources.
The following is a link to an online workshop offered by the Center for Counseling
and Psychological Services (CAPS) at Penn State's University Park Campus. The workshop
is based on live training that is offered regularly on campus. It is designed to help
university faculty and staff respond appropriately to students dealing with a high
level of stress and distress.