Behavior Intervention Team
Potomac State College Cares
The Potomac State College of WVU Behavior Intervention Team (BIT) is a multidisciplinary campus threat assessment and behavioral intervention team that guides the campus community in effectively assessing and addressing threatening and/or concerning behaviors. BIT strives to assist the campus in intervening before behaviors reach a critical level.
BIT does NOT respond directly to emergencies. Call 9-1-1 if you experience an emergency.
The mission of BIT is to enhance open communication within the College community pertaining to the promotion of a safe living and learning environment.
To assess reported threatening or violent behaviors and develop action plans to promote a safe campus environment.
- Identification-Often, the accumulation of information identifies a person who poses a threat and helps to identify the level of the threat; therefore, the team ensures appropriate information exchange.
- Assess-If additional information is needed to assess the level of risk, the team functions as an investigative body charged with gathering relevant and confidential information for the purposes of providing for the safety, security and well-being of the person-at-risk and the campus community.
- Manage and Track-When a determination is made that the person in question is at risk or poses a risk to him or to others, the team recommends and/or implements steps for intervention, which may be medical, psychological, judicial or legal. In many cases, the standing policies and procedures of the College and external agencies dictate the intervention strategies.
- Reduce-Addressing minor violations of College policies reduces the risk of aggressive behavior; thereby, increasing the possibility of peaceful solutions.
- Educate and Empower-The team seeks to provide guidance and best practices for preventing violence and to empower the campus community to recognize, report, and effectively address aberrant, dangerous, threatening and/or concerning behaviors.
- Support- The team supports individuals who experience concerning or potentially threatening behaviors.
When to Contact BIT
Contact BIT if you experience concern about the well-being or safety of a Potomac State College student or any other person affecting the PSC community (including faculty, staff, parents, spouses, family members, and persons not affiliated with the campus) and are unsure about how to intervene or address the situation.
Typical behaviors that should be reported include, but are not limited to:
- Disruptive behavior
- Concerning behavior
- Possession of a weapon or weapons on campus
- Emotionally troubled individuals
- Hostile, threatening or aggressive behavior
- Alarming references or infatuation with fires, firearms or bombs
- Acts motivated by hatred or discrimination
- Alcohol or drug abuse
- Drastic, unexpected behavior change
Individuals are expected to use their judgment as to what should be reported, erring on the side of over-reporting, when in doubt.
How to Contact BIT
CALL 911 if violence is imminent or is occurring.
E-mail BIT at PSC-Cares@mail.wvu.edu with the following information:
- Name along with any known information about the person you are referring
- Summary of the observed behavior of concern, including when and where it occurred
- Your contact information
- Any other information that you believe is relevant
(You may also contact the University Police at 304-788-6930 or on their cell phone at 301-707-0655 or you may contact the Dean of Student Affairs at 304-788-6843.)
A team member will contact you as soon as possible, but no later than the next business day, and gather additional information about your concern.
Please be aware that your communication may be subject to review through FERPA or other laws governing communications.
If your concern pertains to disrespectful or minor disruptive student behavior, please consult with your Dean/Chair or supervisor, or contact, Mark McDonald, Student Conduct Officer at 304-788-7248.
William M. Letrent, Dean of Student Affairs
Brian Kerling, University Police Chief
Susan Kephart, School Psychologist
Cherise Southerly, College Nurse
Kara Anderson, Student Code Administrator
Mollie Bennett, Academic Success Center Coordinator
Phil Douthitt, Associate Dean of Academics
Scott Rubin, Assistant Director of Housing and Residence Life
Acting on Early Warning Signs
BIT cannot completely protect the College or respond to unreported incidents. Members of the campus community are expected to take any threat or violent act seriously and to immediately report such acts to appropriate personnel or to the police. Community members should not put themselves in harm’s way.
If you see something, say something!
Guidelines for Responding to Students of Concern (Adapted from WVU’s Student Welfare Advisory Committee):
- Safety First: The welfare of the student and the campus community is our top priority when a student displays threatening or potentially violent behavior. Coordinated professional help and follow-up care are our most effective means of preventing suicide and violence.
- Trust your instincts: If you experience significant unease about a student, seek consultation from your department chair, supervisor, the BIT or the PSC Psychological Counseling office for Psychological and Service. Promptly report safely concerns and student conduct code violations to the Office of Student Conduct (304-788-7248).
- Listen sensitively and carefully: Vulnerable students need to be seen, heard and helped. Many students will have difficulty clearly articulating their distress. Don’t be afraid to ask students directly if they feel their functioning is impaired, or have thoughts of harming themselves or others.
- Be proactive: Engage students early on, setting limits on disruptive or self-destructive behavior. You can remind students verbally or in writing (e.g., in the class syllabus) of standards and expectations for campus/class conduct, and of possible consequences for disruptive behavior. Refer to the Student Conduct Code for more information click here. Emphasize respect and care in supporting a campus of inclusion.
- De-escalate and support: Distressed students can be sensitive and easily provoked, so avoid threatening, humiliating or intimidating statements. Help students connect with the College’s resources needed to achieve stabilization. The PSC Psychological Counseling office provides individual consultations regarding de-escalation, support and referral for student services.
- Participate in a Coordinated and Timely Response: Share information and consult with appropriate College personnel to coordinate care for the student. Safeguard the student’s privacy rights. You should promptly report serious, persistent, or inappropriate behavior to the Dean of Student Affairs, the Dean of Curriculum and Instruction, the University Police, or to the BIT. Misconduct may be formally addressed through the Student Conduct process, and additional campus resources may be necessary to help reduce or eliminate the student’s disruptive behaviors.
Articles and Helpful Information
Gary Pavela’s Memorandum to Faculty: Teaching Troubled Students after the Virginia Tech Shootings (2012)
Threat Assessment in Schools: A Guide to Managing Threatening Situations and Creating Safe School Climates (US Secret Service and US Department of Education)
The Role of Warning Behaviors in Threat Assessment: An Exploration and Suggested Typology http://forensis.org/PDF/published/2012_WarningBehavio.pdf
Prevention & Proactive Strategies
Developed by Laura Bennett, Harper College
Presented at 2012 NaBITA Conference
As members of a campus community, it is the responsibility of each of us to promote and sustain an environment that is conducive to teaching, learning, and working. As faculty and staff we have an additional responsibility to educate and role model the appropriate behaviors for students and community members. Sometimes individuals engage in concerning behaviors because it has not been clearly communicated what the expectations for behavior are. These are suggestions for actions that can be taken to prevent misconduct occurring:
Tips for Preventing Misconduct in the Classroom
Instructors are responsible for determining academic standards and evaluating student performance in accordance with those standards. Along with this authority comes the responsibility for setting behavioral and social conduct standards for their classrooms.
- Develop a relationship with each student. This not only decreases the likelihood of any kind of misconduct (including cheating) but also gives you a baseline by which to understand the student’s usual behavior.
- Expectations should be described in the syllabus and in relevant classroom discussions for such issues as students arriving late to class, sleeping during class, using cell phones in class, having side conversations during lectures, etc. For courses with online components, it is recommended that expectations regarding electronic communications be included. The more specific classroom expectations can be made, the more helpful these will be in circumstances involving classroom management issues.
- Review and discuss the Student Code of Conduct. This not only deters potentially disruptive behaviors but also communicates to all students that you and the campus value a classroom environment free from disruption.
- Include information about what happens if a student violates the standards, such as you will request a meeting with the student in most cases and will file a Student Conduct Complaint if the behavior may violate the Code of Student Conduct.
- Practice! Discuss scenarios with your peers and develop a “toolbox” of strategies
Tips for Preventing Misconduct in Office Environments & Common Spaces
- Assess the office environment from a new person’s perspective. If an individual walks into the offices and is unclear who to see for assistance, this can create tension and anxiety. Post signage that directs traffic flow. If there is only one person who can assist individuals, have a sign that shows where to sit and wait, and in what timeframe someone can expect to be assisted.
- Review the Code of Student Conduct so that you have an understanding of the campus expectations and you have language to use if someone approaches violation of the policies. For example, it is reasonable for you to remind someone who is yelling to lower their voice because they are disturbing others in their work environment. It is possible to provide quality customer service while holding someone accountable to standards for behaviors.
- In common areas, post the guidelines for usage. Include information asking everyone to help maintain the environment, where and how to report concerns, and what will happen if the space or facility is abused.
- Practice! While it may feel awkward, roles play scenarios. Have a friend or colleague call you on the phone with a mock issue and try to de-escalate them. Solicit feedback from them about how your choice of language and tone of voice made them feel.