Behavior Intervention Team (BIT)
This website was created to accomplish the following:
- Inform the campus-community about the BIT
- Provide information and tips about how to deal with situations you may encounter
- Provide campus and community referral resources
If you have any questions or concerns about a situation, click here to contact the team.
What is the BIT?
The Behavior Intervention Team, is a collaborative interdisciplinary team of campus-community members that meets weekly to discuss students exhibiting behaviors indicative of crisis and elevated risk.
The NDSU BIT includes representation from:
- Dean of Student Life Office - Janna Stoskopf, Nona Wood, Emily Frazier
- Counseling Center - William Burns
- Residence Life - Karla Thoennes
- University Police & Safety Office - Ray Boyer
- Academic Affairs - James Council
The BIT will consult with other offices and agencies as appropriate including:
Athletics; Disability Services; Equity, Diversity, & Global Outreach; Greek Life; Human Resources; International Programs; Multicultural Programs; University Relations; local law enforcement agencies; and the individual reporting the situation.
Recognizing a Student Crisis
What is a crisis?
When a person experiences or perceives a threat to self-esteem, significant relationships, or role mastery, anxiety and fear are aroused. When the usual coping strategies do not restore an internal sense of confidence that these feelings can be tolerated and managed, a crisis state ensues.
The person's usual coping mechanisms are overwhelmed and the anxiety and fear create a heightened tension. It is in this climax of tension that a window of opportunity for growth is opened. The need to relieve the tension increases the motivation to explore alternative resolutions to end the psychological disruption.
A crisis needs to be distinguished from an emergency.
What is an emergency?
An emergency is an event that requires immediate attention and prompt action to establish safety. If someone is hurt, or there is an immediate danger, University Police should be contacted immediately (701-231-8998, 24 hours a day).
Recognizing a Student Crisis
At one time or another everyone feels upset or distressed. However, there are three levels of student distress which, when present over a period of time, suggest that a student may be in crisis.
- Changes in academic performance in the classroom
- Significant drop in examination scores
- Change in pattern of interaction
- Changes in physical appearance
- Problems concentrating & remembering things or making decisions
- Repeated request for special consideration
- New or regularly occurring behavior which pushes the limits and may interfere with class management or be disruptive to other students, faculty or staff
- Unusual or exaggerated emotional responses
- Persistent sadness or unexplained crying
- High levels of irritability or inappropriate excitement
- Highly disturbed behavior
- Outbursts of anger
- Inability to communicate clearly
- Irrational conversation or speech that seems disconnected
- Loss of contact with reality (seeing/hearing things that are not there, beliefs or actions at odds with reality)
- Suspiciousness, irrational feelings of persecution
- Statements related to death or dying or feelings of hopelessness
- Threats of harming self or harming others
What Can You Do To Help?
Responses to Level 1 and 2 Behavior
- Talk to the student in private when you both have time
- Express your concern in non-judgmental terms
- Listen to the student and repeat the gist of what the student is saying
- Identify options available to the student
- Clarify the costs and benefits of each option for handling the problem from the student's point of view
- Respect the student's value system
- Ask if the student is considering suicide
- Make appropriate referrals if necessary
- Make sure the student understands what action is necessary and make plans to follow-up with the student on this action
Responses to Level 3 Behavior
- Stay calm
- Find someone to stay with the student if possible and safe to do so
- Call University Police (701-231-8998)
Responding to Suicidal Concerns
When a student makes any reference to suicide, threat of suicide, or attempt at suicide, a judgment should be made by a mental health professional about the seriousness of a possible suicidal thought or behavior. Suicide attempts are first and foremost a medical emergency. If danger or suicidal behavior appears imminent: 1) Stay calm and 2) Contact University Police (701-231-8998) or dial 911.
If danger or suicidal behavior does not appear imminent, consult with the NDSU Counseling Center (701-231-7671) about handling the situation.
To Save A Life Remember QPR (Question, Persuade, and Refer)
Question the person about suicide
Persuade the person to get help
Refer for help
Referring a Student to the BIT
NDSU strives to create a safe and healthy learning environment. As members of the campus-community, you interact with students on a regular basis and may observe behaviors that concern you or are unusual for a student. When a student's behavior goes beyond the normal classroom disturbances and appears distressed (to be in crisis) you can contact the BIT for assistance. We will evaluate the circumstances and determine the appropriate plan of action for the student.
To refer a student to the BIT, you can contact any BIT representative or the group as a whole (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the name of the student and a brief narrative of their behavior. If you are concerned about a student, but have not witnessed any distressing or disruptive behavior, please explain your concern in detail. Please include any information that may be helpful to the team in evaluating the situation, such as: the basic questions, who, what, where, when, and why (if applicable); the duration, frequency, severity and/or progression of the behavior; any mitigating circumstances; or actions previously employed by you or others to assist the student or change the behavior.
The BIT meets weekly during the academic year (less often during the summer) and will review your referral at its next meeting. If a situation requires immediate attention, an emergency BIT meeting will be called.
Be assured that the BIT exists to care for our students and will handle your referral in a professional manner in an effort to best meet the needs of the NDSU community and our students.
Disclosure of student information and compliance with FERPA
FERPA provides many specific exceptions when faculty and staff can disclose education records without specific student consent. Many of these exceptions are provided in the regulations to allow for the reasonable and practical workings of an educational institution.
One of the key exceptions is when the disclosure is to other school officials within the University who have "legitimate educational interests." NDSU's annual notice defines legitimate educational interests. Specifically, this includes those who have a need to review the educational record in order to fulfill their responsibilities.
In relation to the BIT, FERPA affords some flexibility to correspond with University administrators and faculty, when the information being provided to the other party is necessary to protect the health or safety of the student or their individuals.
August 2003 - Legal Watch - FERPA for Faculty by Rick Johnson, NDSU General Counsel
BIT follow-up procedures
BIT follow-up procedures
Once the BIT has been contacted about a student concern, the group will proceed to gather as much information as possible to determine if/when an intervention should occur and in what manner. In some cases, if the person reporting the concern has a relationship with the student, they may be asked to be part of the process of getting the student connected with appropriate resources. In other cases, the person reporting the concern may not hear much information about what happens. For example, if a student is experiencing a mental health emergency and is taken to a medical facility for evaluation, the team may not be able to disclose specific information. In all cases, the BIT will work to notify the individual reporting the concern of whatever information may reasonably be shared.
General Guidelines for Helping Troubled Students
It is challenging to help someone who is under significant stress and not coping well. When dealing with someone in crisis, it is important to be sensitive to how the interaction is going. Do you understand what the problem is? Can you meet the person's expectations in this encounter? Pay attention to your own feelings of safety. Be alert to cues that you may need a professional consultation from the Counseling Center, or, in an emergency, immediate assistance from University Police.
- Always seek counseling consultation when a student expresses suicidal thoughts.
- Be aware of your own tolerance limits.
- Fear can be contagious, monitor your ability to stay calm.
- Crying generally indicates the person is upset, but not necessarily in crisis.
- Anxious, tense, fearful students are responsive to reduced stimulation, moving to a quiet space, being calm, understanding, and reassuring.
- Be respectful, but do not pretend to understand a student with confused thoughts who is out of touch with reality.
- Do not agree or disagree with delusions or hallucinations.
- When dealing with a student who is agitated or frustrated with you, be mindful that you are seen as the person with power. Express empathy, and paraphrase what has been said to be clear that you understand.
- Remain calm and keep a safe distance from someone who is angry, hostile or demanding. Talking quietly and calmly is more effective than telling the student to "calm down."
- Inquire whether the student has a relationship with any of the counseling professionals in the Counseling Center and suggest utilizing available services.
Recommending Counseling in Support of Academic Goals
It is not necessary to wait for a crisis to refer a student to counseling. A student whose behavior in class, peer relationships, or relationship to authority is interfering with success can benefit from a referral to counseling. Counselors have the professional training to understand emotional communications. They can help students understand the nature of various problems and conflicts, clarify how the problems affect behavior and academic success, explore alternatives and make referrals for on-going assistance.
Faculty and staff members work with a large and diverse student body and it would be impossible to understand and respond to all of the needs and frustrations presented. Additionally, the faculty or staff member is limited by the reality of the student teacher relationship, which includes enforcing standards and does not automatically include the privilege of confidentiality. Therefore, an important role of the faculty or staff member is to recognize that a student is in trouble, to help the student recognize that the problem is an obstacle to academic productivity, and to make a referral to the Counseling Center.
- Step One: Request a meeting with the student privately after class (or determine a mutually agreeable time).
- Step Two: Give your reason for seeing the student. Indicate what you have observed that makes you concerned without interpretation.
- For example, "I notice that you do not work with your group members on assigned projects," or "you often complain about the assignments and do not submit them on time."
- Step Three: Allow the student to talk and help the student elaborate. Ask the student if s/he is aware of the behavior and how s/he understands it. Remain calm, listen respectfully without judgment or advice giving, paraphrase to indicate understanding, and do not pretend to understand what you do not understand.
- Step Four: Recommend professional counseling. Validate that difficult circumstances or feelings interfere with performance or concentration. Inquire if the student has seen a counselor in the Counseling Center. If yes, ask if it might be helpful to discuss the problem together. If not, suggest that meeting with a counselor can help a student get back on track. That talking to a counselor can relieve some of the worry, help negotiate academic accommodations if needed, and make referrals for various services or resources. Emphasize that services are free and confidential.
Students Who Decline a Counseling Referral
Counseling is offered to students as a voluntary support service. It is inappropriate and ineffective to use counseling for disciplinary or enforcement purposes. However, students whose behavior causes serious concerns or otherwise interfere with the functioning of the class, should be brought to the attention of the instructor's Dean and the BIT. As appropriate, a determination can be made as to whether a student requires supportive outreach, monitoring for safety, academic disciplinary proceedings or accommodations.
The Counseling Center also offers assistance to faculty and staff members in the form of consultations. The consultant is a counseling staff member who acts as a partner to the instructor in developing strategies to manage the emotional climate in the classroom. This is useful when an instructor is overburdened by worries about a fragile student, or when the deleterious effects that a problematic student has on the functioning of the class frustrate the instructor. Counselors have the professional training to understand emotional communications behind difficult or acting out behaviors. Although utilizing this service requires that the instructor allocate time beyond the classroom, it is often less demanding than struggling alone to counteract the negative effects on the class. The Divisions of Academic and Student Affairs both encourage instructor utilization of counseling consultation.
Follow the procedures listed below when dealing with students unwilling to accept counseling referral:
- Submit documentation on the student's behavior to your Dean and the BIT. The situation will be considered and appropriate action will be taken by the Dean and/or the BIT.
- The instructor may directly initiate a consultation with the Counseling Center.
- All suicide threats or gestures should be taken seriously. If a student is imminently in danger (e.g.: carrying a weapon, or informing you of an immediate plan) contact University Police (231-8998).
- If there is no immediate danger, the student should be escorted to the Counseling Center (Ceres 212, 231-7671) to speak with a counselor. If this occurs after normal business hours, contact University Police (231-8998) or the Counseling Center counselor-on-call (231-7671).
- If the student refuses to go to the Counseling Center, immediately file an incident report with the University Police and Safety Office (231-8998) and advise the Counseling Center Director (231-7671).
- It my be possible to avert out of control behavior by removing a student who is about to erupt. If you feel safe, you can ask the student to accompany you to discuss the problem in the department office or other place where help is available.
- If you do not feel safe during a class meeting, contact University Police (231-8998).
- If violence has occurred or seems imminent University Police should be contacted to deal with the student as appropriate.
- Use your discretion to determine whether or not to dismiss the class until the next session.
- Report the incident to NDSU office (1-8998) and the BIT.
- If a student behaves inappropriately, but there is no immediate threat of physical violence to anyone, it is important to identify the specific behaviors that feel menacing or troubling. The student may stand too close, speak in a raised voice, mutter incoherently, be discourteous, refuse to comply with reasonable directives, submit work with bizarre or threatening content, or make veiled or overt threats to you or others in the class.
- If you suspect mental illness, inquire if the student has a relationship with a Counseling Center counselor and request a consultation with the student's counselor. The counselor can intercede or suggest interventions most likely to be well received and effective.
- Do not be coerced by aggressive or pushy behavior in order to feel safe. Ask the student to change the behavior. Setting a limit (e.g., denying a request for good reasons, asking the student to behave appropriately) at the beginning can avoid a more serious situation later.
- Do not meet the student in an isolated place, such as behind the closed door of your office. Use a public or semi-public area, a room with an open door adjacent to others. You can request someone else to be present with you or for a University Police officer to monitor an interaction.
- If you do not feel safe setting a limit, this is an indication that you need help. Speak with your department chair to determine what additional support may be helpful (e.g., academic authority, disciplinary, counseling, security).
- If a student cannot or will not change his/her behavior after clear and repeated requests to do so, you should initiate a report with the BIT.