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 a faculty or staff member 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 and/or personal concerns.
Following are information and resources which may prove useful when assisting students
with such concerns including:
- Basic issues of civil rights
- Being an adult (student) at a university
- How the university can act with a distressed student or student of concern
- What to do if you believe a student is in imminent danger
- Why not just call Counseling Services?
- I think a student has a mental health problem. Why call the Office of Student Accountability
- Am I creating situations in the classroom that make things more difficult for my students?
- Conclusions and Additional resources
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 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. You are encouraged
to read and keep a copy of FERPA for your information. You are encouraged to read
the entire act. In addition to federal law, state laws (La. R.S. 13:3734) regarding confidentiality of records also limit the ability of licensed professionals
in certain occupations from disclosing information without written consent by the
client receiving services (both outside and within the university).
How the University Can Act With a Distressed Student or a Student of Concern
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.
What to Do if You Believe a Student is in Imminent Danger?
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 issues. We can see
that the extremes of both positions do not work. On one extreme, allowing these issues
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 be seeking treatment) violates basic human rights and should give all of us pause
for concern about who is making decisions about our own behavior.
What can I do to help?
For information about how to help a distressed student see the Consultations and Referrals
page. As you will see, you can also refer a student to Counseling Services during
regular office hours and we will be happy to speak with her or him.
Am I creating situations in the classroom that make things more difficult for my students?
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, and unfortunately, some of
our students come with a history of some type of mental health concerns including
depression, anxiety and mental, physical or sexual abuse. As a result, some of the
assignments we might give, 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 at (504) 280-6683.
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.
Students In Distress: Guidelines for Faculty and Staff Interventions
*The above information was adapted from the Texas Woman's University Counseling Center Website.