Students In Distress: Legal Obligations, Institutional Response & Case Studies Review
Challenge - Supporting distressed students
Working to support students in distress or demonstrating distressing behaviors is something that many in higher ed are passionate about but can be difficult due to a lack of understanding & training.
Understand the institution’s obligations to students experiencing and/or causing distress in our academic communities and how institutions may respond to them
According to a study by Penn State Student Affairs, “Students who reported that their mental health was negatively impacted by COVID-19 also reported higher levels mental health distress in seven areas (depression, generalized anxiety, social anxiety, eating concerns, hostility, alcohol use, and general distress), regardless of whether they sought services because of COVID-19.” The increase of stress and stressors has an impact on the individual and on the campus community, so it is more important than ever that higher ed faculty & staff know how to recognize, manage and support students in distress.
Adding to this issue, widespread layoffs in higher education at the start of the pandemic, coupled with the more recent “great resignation,” have cast many higher education professionals into new roles involving student conduct or working with their schools’ behavioral intervention team (BIT) and/or CARE or “students of concern” groups. In our increasingly litigious society, it is critical to prepare oneself for this work; as we have a personal responsibility and an institutional obligation to support students in distress.
After a brief review of the legal obligations that should guide institutional practices, we will dive into some “ripped from the headlines” scenarios and discuss the pros and cons of different response approaches.
- Identify some of the factors that lead to distress in our students and on campus
- Understand the institution’s legal responsibility for responding to students in distress
- Articulate the factors they should (and shouldn’t) use when determining how to respond to a distressed or distressing student.
- Describe who should be “in the room” when decisions regarding addressing distressed and distressing students are made and why.
- Identify proactive and/or structural changes to their institutional practices and resources to better support struggling students.
- Human Resources
- Student Services/Affairs
- Counseling Center Staff
- Any educator interested in learning more about working with a distressed or distressing student
J. Morgan Levy, J.D. enjoyed an almost twenty-year career in higher education administration prior to founding J. Morgan Levy Consulting, LLC in 2020. She began her love for all things higher ed as an undergraduate at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA where she earned a B.A. in history and served as a Residential Assistant and Orientation Leader. After graduating from Muhlenberg, Morgan traveled to SUNY Buffalo where she focused on alternative dispute resolution and obtained her law degree.
Morgan had the pleasure of working at New York University, Columbia University and the University of Rochester in student conduct, students of concern, disability services, affirmative action, and Title IX before her recent transition to full time business owner. She is passionate about helping students and institutions become the best version of themselves through the excavation and examination of barriers impeding their success.
Morgan lives in upstate New York with her husband and their four boys and two very spoiled dogs.
Bio current as of May 2022.
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