Team of NDSU staff trained to catch concerning behavior
Published: Thursday, January 30, 2014
Updated: Thursday, January 30, 2014 09:01
Since 2009, NDSU’s Behavior Intervention Team has kept an eye on concerning student behavior and overseen several campus entities that aim to prevent student crises.
North Dakota University System recently received a $282,520 boost for mental health services. About 5 percent of that money will go to establish and train behavioral intervention teams at its 11 schools.
“We are still working out the details regarding whether or not a BIT will be required of each of the NDUS campuses, but it is indeed something that we are recommending,” said Becky Lamboley, North Dakota University System director of student affairs.
Lamboley said that although a timeline has not been finalized, BIT training should be completed at all 11 campuses by the end of spring semester.
But NDSU already utilizes an intervention team, and so far school officials say it has been nothing but successful.
“We have connected a number of students with appropriate help over the past 4-5 years, that would likely not have sought it out on their own,” said Janna Stoskopf, NDSU’s Dean of Student Life.
Lamboley said from what she’s heard, NDSU’s BIT is successful, but its members will still train with the new BIT teams the system hopes to establish soon. She said NDSU’s team can share its experiences with the new teams.
The intervention team meets on campus once a week and includes representatives from five entities including: Student Life, Residence Life, the Counseling Center, the University Police and Safety Office and Academic Affairs.
“No one entity can know different aspects of a student’s life, so it takes people from a variety of areas to be able to understand what might be going on with a student and what might be the best intervention for their situation,” Stoskopf said.
The team sprouted up because of a tragedy.
“Behavioral Intervention Teams were created first at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois,” said NDSU’s Counseling Center director Bill Burns. “They were created to prevent violence, and we want to do that.”
A 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech left 32 dead, and a 2008 shooting at Northern Illinois University left five dead.
“We want to help students not fall through the cracks and get them the help they need to be successful,” Burns added.
Each semester the team has had to intervene on several occasions. But Burns said the team is not there to discipline students, but to prevent tragedies from happening.
Concerning behavior can be more than mental health issues, Burns said. Students who are having emotional problems or who are acting out in class can become concerns of the BIT, too.
Reporting a behavior issue can come from students, faculty or staff.
Residence hall staffs are trained to look for signs of behavior shifts or emotional troubles students might be dealing with.
Josh Onken, assistant director of apartments, said each of their 12 full-time hall directors go through mental health and first aid training. Additionally, student residence assistants are also trained for crisis intervention.
Onken said they use the “question, persuade, refer” system to avert escalating problems with students.
Professors and other staff are also encouraged to refer students they are concerned about to the team.
The University Police and Security Office also plays a major, front-line role on the BIT.
“University Police personnel not only serve on the BIT committee, but on a daily basis interact with the other entities represented on the BIT to ensure timely action is being taken to provide whatever level of intervention is necessary for our campus community,” said University Police and Security Office director Ray Boyer.
Campus police serve as a constant point of contact for incidents which may require the BIT to intervene, Boyer said. If that is the case, the police communicate to the larger group about an incident and any students involved.
“It doesn’t always work, but our chances for success have improved more from the fact that we recognize the value of the teamwork established by the BIT process,” Boyer said.
Officers on campus are also trained extensively to deal with mental health issues and do so on a daily basis.
Boyer said the emphasis on prevention is a critical piece of the BIT’s mission.
“One of the key components to this doesn’t come from a public discussion about how well we do when we become aware of a problem,” he said, “but more about how we get to be aware of a problem.”
Depending on the issue, the team can choose to operate in different ways, Stoskopf said.
The team looks at aspects of students’ life including where they live, if they have had issues with hall staff and dips in GPA or attendance.
“That helps us to determine if the situation is an isolated instance or if the behavior is occurring in multiple areas around campus,” Stoskopf said. “If we determine there is a need to intervene, then we identify the appropriate method.”