Protocol for Responding to Students At-Risk
1.1 The University of Guelph is a community committed to education and learning. It cares deeply about the physical and mental health of all of its students and strives to foster a supportive community wherein students can succeed personally and academically. Therefore, health, wellness and counselling services are available on campus to support students who may be experiencing personal difficulties.
1.2 There may be times however, when students experience circumstances that may negatively affect their behavior, their ability to engage in the demands of university life including coursework or may raise concerns regarding safety (“Student-At-Risk” or “Student”). Students-At-Risk are encouraged to prioritize their health and safety and take steps toward recovery, even if academic progress must be delayed. The University will support student-initiated self-care plans, and/or initiate actions, that consider the welfare of the individual while at the same time considering the ability of other members of the University and local community to be free from harm and to engage in the educational process.
1.3 The purpose of this Protocol is to facilitate the assessment of Students-At-Risk and to provide a process for voluntary resolution of concerns without resorting to the judicial process, if possible. If a voluntary resolution is not possible and where there is significant risk that a Student-At-Risk may harm him/herself or another and that the risk cannot be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level through supports, involuntary measures may be utilized. If at any time, the University believes a resolution under this Protocol is not possible or appropriate, the University may refer the matter to the appropriate judicial process.
2.1 These procedures apply to all full-time and part-time students at the University’s main campus and registered students who are travelling abroad.
3.1 The University is subject to provincial legislation regarding privacy and access to personal information. Any sharing of personal information, including personal health information, must be made in accordance with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FIPPA) and the Personal Health Information Protection Act (PHIPA).
3.2 While the University will attempt to respect the privacy of personal information in carrying out these procedures, FIPPA permits disclosure of personal information in compelling or emergency circumstances affecting the health or safety of an individual. FIPPA also allows for disclosure “in compassionate circumstances, to facilitate contact with the spouse, a close relative or a friend of an individual who is injured, ill or deceased.”
3.3 PHIPA also allows for the disclosure of personal health information if the health information custodian “believes on reasonable grounds that the disclosure is necessary for the purpose of eliminating or reducing a significant risk of serious bodily harm to a person or group of persons.” PHIPA also permits disclosure “for the purpose of contacting a relative, friend or potential substitute decision-maker of the individual, if the individual is injured, incapacitated or ill and unable to give consent personally.”
3.4 Records will be maintained in accordance with University policies and legal requirements.
4.1 SART is a group of professional staff who are responsible for the following when dealing with specific student cases:
- To provide timely and coordinated support for Students-At-Risk that will help facilitate academic and interpersonal success. This support will include the identification of appropriate services and staff
- To make decisions, as appropriate regarding the assessment and response to Students in accordance with Section 5
- To provide a sensitive and coordinated response to people personally impacted by the behaviour
- To ensure that there is an accurate and efficient flow of information in a manner consistent with applicable legislation
4.2 In addition to meetings related to specific students of concern, SART meets at least once each semester to review and debrief student cases and decisions, as well as to identify trends. SART will forward to the Vice-Provost (Student Affairs) (VPSA) any recommendations arising from these discussions. Recommendations could include suggestions for specific education and awareness campaigns, the need for enhancement of existing programs, training needs or policy changes.
The membership of SART is as follows:
- Director, Students Wellness Services (Chair)
- Director, Sexual Violence Support Centre
- Director, Student Housing Services
- Director, Campus Community Police
4.3 Any of the above noted Directors may send a delegate if he or she is unable to attend a particular meeting. If the Manager, Students at Risk is unable to attend a meeting, the Chair shall be one of the other Directors, preferably the Director, Student Wellness Services.
4.4 Depending upon a specific student issue, SART may access additional resource individuals including:
- Representative from the Office of Registrarial Service and/or Graduate Studies
- Legal Counsel
- Representative from Communications & Public Relations
- Representative from Environmental Health & Safety
- Representative of Human Resources
- Representative from the Office of Diversity & Human Rights
- Representative from the academic department or unit concerned
- Medical practitioner with specific expertise
4.5 SART reports to the VPSA, who will assume the role of Chair when dealing with student issues of high risk.
4.6 In response to a specific case or set of circumstances, SART may decide if appropriate, to carry out or recommend to the VPSA some or all of the following actions:
- Determine facts regarding a Student including: what facts are known, what information is still needed, how such information may be obtained, and the anticipated timeline for process
- Determine whether special expertise is required and access it as necessary
- Create a case file detailing facts and recording all decisions
- Explore voluntary options to resolve the behaviour in question or forward the matter to the appropriate parties for the filing of police/judicial charges. Examples of voluntary options may include but are not limited to: behavioural contracts; leave from academics; withdrawal from residence; restriction from some parts of campus or campus services; or referral for medical/psychological care
- Explore options for the support, care and follow-up of the Student as well as any individuals affected by the behaviour. This might include medical/psychological care, temporary leave, academic consideration, or security precautions
- Recommend to the AVPSA restricting a Student’s access to the University or its services unless the Student is seen by a professional in Health Services or Counselling for assessment and support
- Establish responsibility among team members for the follow-up of decisions and for arranging further meetings. Follow-up activities need not always involve full team meetings, provided that all activities are coordinated by the AVPSA, who shall be informed of all developments in the case, as appropriate
- Identify return to campus requirements and coordinate return to campus supports
5.1 If any member of the community has concerns regarding a Student’s behavior, that individual should forward those concerns to any member of SART. Concerning behaviour includes: actions, or statements that suggest the Student may be or has become a threat to themselves or others; a significant change in Student behaviour; or a belief that the Student’s personal problems are impacting significantly on their academic success.
5.2 The SART member will individually or in consultation with other SART members, make an initial assessment as to whether a Student’s behavior may be significantly affected by mental health issues. If it is determined that mental health issues may be significantly impacting behavior, an assessment of the level of risk as outlined below will be made. If at any time, the University believes a resolution under this Protocol is not possible or appropriate, the University may refer the matter to the appropriate judicial process.
5.3 The assessment of risk and subsequent response to behavior cannot be accomplished in isolation or within rigid categories. Therefore, the following risk levels are intended as guidelines with the acknowledgment that any particular circumstances may be fluid in nature and may either straddle or move between risk levels.
Risk levels are identified as follows:
No clear, immediate threat of harm but the conduct of the Student is disruptive, having a negative impact on themselves or on other members of the University community or there is a reasonable concern that a threat of harm may exist in the future without appropriate intervention (e.g., a student in residence with an eating disorder who appears to be declining in health). The Student appears able and willing to reasonably discuss such behavior and its impact.
This level of risk is normally managed by the SART member of the appropriate department (e.g., Student Wellness Services, Counselling Services, or Student Housing Services) who will take steps so that the student receives an appropriate level of support. Potential responses to a Level 1 risk are voluntary in nature. Response options may include but are not limited to behavioural contracts, reduced course load, voluntary withdrawal from residence or leave of absence from academics, and/or referral for medical/psychological care.
No clear, immediate threat of harm but the conduct of the Student is either escalating (i.e., is increasingly disruptive, having an increased negative impact on the University or the surrounding community) or creates a significant risk of serious bodily harm. The Student appears able and willing to reasonably discuss such behavior and its impact. Examples include:
- Acute decline in physical health;
- Serious suicidal threat, intent and/or behavior;
- Ongoing serious self-injurious behavior;
- Eating disorders which are not responding to treatment and/or are posing safety concerns
This level of risk is normally managed by SART. Potential responses to a Level 2 risk may include but are not limited to the same response options as for Level 1 and additional responses as indicated in Section 4.5
Attempted intervention(s) at level 2 have been unsuccessful or a clear and immediate threat of harm exists. Examples include:
- Destructive, threatening, or other unsafe disruptive behavior;
- Overdose or continued and unsafe misuse of drugs, alcohol or over-the counter prescription medications
This level of risk is normally managed by the VPSA. Once the VPSA confirms the assessment of a Level 3 risk, he or she will individually or in consultation with other SART members, determine whether an interim response is required to address any immediate threat by the student to her/himself or others. In addition, the VPSA will also be responsible for calling a meeting of the SART which will meet no later than 2 working days following the report of the behavior.
Potential responses to a Level 3 risk may include but are not limited to:
- Same potential responses indicated for Level 1 and 2 risks;
- Restriction of a Student’s access to the University or its services unless the student is seen by a professional in Health Services or Counselling for assessment and support.
- Immediate ban from the University premises by notice of trespass;
- An involuntary withdrawal from the University. A decision of involuntary withdrawal will be communicated in writing and will only occur if, after assessment, it is the opinion of the SART there is significant risk that the student will harm him/herself or another, and that the risk cannot be eliminated or reduced to an acceptable level through supports.
- Exploration of options for the support, care and follow-up for the Student. This might include medical/psychological care, temporary leave, academic consideration, or security precautions;
- Communication as appropriate with members of the University community, parents, students, and/or emergency contacts, as appropriate;
- If a withdrawal from campus, establishment of Return to Campus Management Plan as defined in Section 6; or
Arrangements for follow-up of decisions and additional meetings, as necessary. All follow-up activities are coordinated by the VPSA, who shall be informed of all developments in the case.
Decisions arising from this meeting will be conveyed to the Student in person, if possible, as well as in writing via email. The decision will include conditions for return, if any.
6.1 If a Student either voluntarily or involuntarily withdraws from the University or campus, as part of the University’s response under Section 5, conditions regarding the Student’s return to campus may be established as part of their return to campus (“Return to Campus Management Plan” or “Plan”).
6.2 A Plan will normally require the Student to be assessed by an appropriate health professional, whose opinions will be advisory to the University (“Health Professional”). The Health Professional must be a licensed clinical psychologist or psychiatrist if evaluating mental health concerns, or must be a licensed physician if the evaluation is regarding other medical concerns. It is not required that the Health Professional be from Student Wellness Services. Further, all Health Professionals must be unrelated to the Student and must have specialty/credentials appropriate for the condition of concern. In order to obtain an accurate assessment, the Student must agree that the Health Professional be given information related to the precipitating events that led to the leave. This typically would involve the Student consenting to the University disclosing to the Health Professional, information regarding what the University considers to be relevant incidents or concerns. The Student will also consent to the Health Professional providing a copy of the Assessment as defined in section 6.3, directly to the Director, Student Wellness Services.
6.3 The Health Professional will be asked to provide to the University an Assessment of current functioning of the Student and provide written recommendations regarding:
- Given the precipitating events, the Student’s readiness to return to the academic and co-curricular demands of university life;
- The Student’s readiness to live in the on-campus residential community, if this is a preferred option;
- Ongoing treatment or testing needs; and
- Any conditions or restrictions that the University should impose
6.4 Normally, a Student who wishes to return to campus will submit his or her request in writing to SART through the VPSA at least one month in advance of the semester in which the Student wishes to return. The written request will be submitted together with any required documentation including but not limited to the Assessment. In the documentation, the Student should identify his/her own perception regarding readiness to return, needs, and plans for treatment.
6.5 The SART will review and consider the Student’s submission, the Assessment and any other relevant information and decide whether to recommend to the VPSA whether the Student should be permitted back on campus and if so, whether any conditions should be placed on the Student’s return. The VPSA will make the final decision and communicate that decision in writing to the Student.
7.1 If the University imposes any involuntary measures under Sections 5 or 6, a Student may appeal in writing to the Provost. Grounds for appeal are that:
- a decision was unreasonable based on the evidence before the original decision-maker, or the Student wishes to present new evidence that was not available at the time of the original decision; or
- procedural unfairness or bias is demonstrated.
7.2 The original decision will stand pending the outcome of any appeal.
7.3 Appeals should be heard in a timely fashion. Normally, the Provost will respond in writing to the Student’s appeal within five business days after receipt of the appeal materials.
Authorization: Board of Governors
Established: April 2014
Editorial Changes: March 2016
Next Review: 2019-2020