Classroom Management & Safety
Professors are responsible for maintaining a classroom environment that is conducive to learning. To do so, it helps to be aware of the health, safety, and behavior issues that students with disabilities might bring to a classroom. That way, if a problem occurs, you'll be better prepared.
The Classroom Environment
A few students suffer ill effects if a classroom is too cold, hot, or dusty, or if it contains strong or unusual scents: new paint, perfume, or other chemicals. It only takes a moment to assess the classroom environment upon entering the room. If something is amiss, attempt to fix the problem, call someone who can, or move the class to another location.
Professors are also responsible for ensuring that accessible furniture is available for students who need it. Accessible furniture consists of tables and chairs that are larger, more comfortable, or more adjustable than typical classroom furniture. This furniture is generally placed at the front of the classroom and is reserved for eligible students to make use of as part of their accommodations.
We will make sure accessible furniture is in the classroom, but it's your responsibility to ensure that the furniture isn't moved, used, or occupied by anyone other than an Accessibility Services-approved student. Think of the furniture as a handicap parking space, complete with a bright blue reserved sign. Even if no one else is using a blue parking space, you wouldn't park there, right? Make sure your students do the same with accessible furniture.
Injuries and Medical Emergencies
If a student becomes ill or injured in your class, ask if you can be of assistance or if they need to visit Student Health and Counseling Services. A paper cut is a minor nuisance to most of us, but could require medical intervention for a student with hemophilia.
If a student has a severe medical emergency in class, call 911. The University Police are first responders on campus but will quickly summon an ambulance, if needed. Depending on the situation, you or another student could attempt to assist the student in crisis (e.g. administering CPR if the student stops breathing) or call a campus physician for advice. If the situation is urgent but less severe, consider escorting a student to the Student Health and Counseling Services building.
Behavior and Safety
There may be times when you question a student's behavior in class. The student is restless, interrupts or distracts others, frequently gets up to move around, or leaves the classroom and returns several times each period.
What's going on here?
It's possible that symptoms of a disability are present and the student's behavior is an attempt to cope. A student who leaves class several times could have a medical condition causing frequent trips to the restroom. A student who stands, stretches, or walks around the room could be relieving pain or stiffness that occurs with prolonged sitting. Students who are restless, interrupt, or distract others could be having difficulty managing symptoms of an attention or psychological disorder.
The point is, you won't know what's going on unless the student tells you, or you ask. We encourage our students to communicate with professors and act unobtrusively if their behavior veers from the norm, but this doesn't always occur. If a student's behavior has become a problem, you need to address it. We recommend talking to the student in private. Don't ask if a disability is present, but identify the behavior you've noticed and discuss why it's disruptive. Listen to the student's explanation and if the behavior serves a purpose, agree on less disruptive alternatives (e.g., a student who needs to leave class for a bathroom break may agree to sit in the back of the classroom or closer to the door).
If a student is somehow disruptive enough that the class cannot learn, confront the student publicly, correcting the behavior in the moment. Do this as you would with any student, with tact and respect, but with clear boundaries and consistent enforcement of classroom and university rules.
If the behavior gets to the point where you would normally ask a student to leave the classroom, by all means, ask the student to leave the classroom. Accessibility Services students must follow the same conduct policies and should be held to the same standards as any other student.
Remember that the university does not tolerate dangerous, threatening, or violent behavior. If any student becomes violent, or if you or the class feel you are in danger, call the University Police Department immediately for assistance.
CSUEB has established policies and procedures for ensuring a quick response for assisting students with disabilities during emergencies or disasters on campus. Whenever there is a building evacuation, we must be aware of the potential needs of all students.
Prepare an evacuation plan in your classroom and discuss this with your students. Tell your class, "If any student has any special evacuation needs, perhaps due to a disability, please let me know privately how we can accommodate you in an evacuation situation." This statement will protect the student's confidentiality.
The following guidelines will prepare you and your students to respond appropriately during an emergency:
- Students with permanent disabilities should prepare for emergencies ahead of time by informing a classmate, instructor, or staff member how to assist them in case of emergencies.
- Students with visual impairments: Offer your elbow to these students, and guide them to a safe area. Make sure they are fully informed of the situation and what they are to do.
- Students with hearing impairments: Communicate with a short written message or speak clearly and directly to them. Use gestures to guide them toward the nearest exit or place of safety.
- Students who use wheelchairs: Consult with the student to establish the best course of action. If it is necessary to wait for exits to clear, stay with them, or try to assign someone else to accompany them. If stairs must be negotiated, it may be best to leave the wheelchair behind and have two assistants carry the student, if possible.
- Students with psychological disabilities: Give the student clear, concise instructions with a limit of one or two tasks to remember. (For example, "Go down these stairs and leave the building. Join everyone in the Staff Parking Lot."). Assign a companion if possible.