Managing threatening or inappropriate behaviour procedure

Intent and objectives

Threatening or inappropriate behaviour by students, staff or visitors undermines RMIT’s capacity to provide a safe environment for students to reach their academic and personal potential. It also limits opportunities for staff to work in a safe, satisfying and supportive environment.

Threatening or inappropriate behaviour requires a considered response that provides firm limits on unacceptable behaviour and addresses the safety of the whole RMIT community

These procedures provide a framework for responsibly and professionally dealing with incidents of threatening or inappropriate behaviour and ensuring that all people involved are treated appropriately and with compassion and dignity.

These procedures provide information on the supports available within RMIT to manage risk and prevent escalation of threatening or inappropriate behaviour.

They do not replace the need for staff to follow RMIT's Emergency Procedures if there is an immediate threat of harm or subsequently to address the behaviour by reference to RMIT Regulation, policy or procedure.

These procedures outline the circumstances under which an RMIT Safety Team should be activated.


All staff, students, contractors and visitors


RMIT Vietnam, Off shore. Local management arrangements apply at RMIT Vietnam and at offshore partner organisations.

Describing threatening or inappropriate behaviour threatening or inappropriate behaviour

Behaviours that are considered threatening to immediate safety include:

  • an uttered, written or gestured threat to kill or harm a person other than the threatener
  • an uttered, written or gestured threat to self harm or suicide
  • an uttered or written threat to damage property
  • any act of physical violence or property damage
  • stalking (repeated, unwanted contact which can arouse apprehension and fear)
  • bullying (repeated, unreasonable contact in the workplace)
  • sexual harassment (unwelcome sexual conduct of any kind)

Behaviours that are considered to be inappropriate include:

  • All other behaviour, not previously mentioned, that seems to imply, rather than directly state, danger to any person. Inappropriate behaviour violates the norms of social interactions in such a way that others feel at risk of imminent or future harm. Examples of inappropriate behaviour might include shouting, standing very close, revealing inappropriate knowledge of personal information, aggressive actions, or demanding unwarranted special attention or consideration.

Threatening or inappropriate behaviour may or may not be face to face.

Threatening or inappropriate behaviour can include emails, letters, and other similar mediums.

Safety is the priority

The motivation behind a threatener’s conduct is irrelevant until the immediate safety of everyone involved is restored. Such consideration, however, may be relevant both to the longer term treatment or management of the person concerned, or during the follow-up to the incident.

Reasons for threatening or inappropriate behaviour

While there are many reasons why an individual may use threatening or inappropriate behaviour, some common motivations include:

  • expressing emotion (usually anger or fear)
  • appealing for help
  • attempting to intimidate others and control their behaviour

Each of these motivations can be affected by many factors such as stress levels, attitudes about violence and coercion, mental state (particularly abnormal mental states such as that seen in those suffering psychosis or mood disorders), and intoxication or withdrawal from alcohol or illicit drugs.

RMIT Regulation, Policy and Procedure

Once the immediate risk to safety is controlled, threatening or inappropriate behaviour will be addressed through relevant RMIT regulation, policy and procedure, eg:

  • Student Discipline
  • Occupational Health and Safety
  • Fairness Policies (Bullying, Sexual Harassment, Racial Discrimination)
  • Student Complaints Policy
  • Relevant Workplace Agreements.

When can I manage threatening or inappropriate behaviour?

If you believe it is safe and are able to defuse the situation, you can manage threatening or inappropriate behaviour. If the person does not accept they need assistance and support, or their aggression and hostility escalate rather than diminish, do not persist in attempting to manage the behaviour.

When is calling Security an appropriate response to threatening or inappropriate behaviour?

If you do not feel safe in a situation, ask the person to leave. If they refuse to leave, you and others in the room should leave.

Seek assistance by going to the nearest place with other people.

If you do not feel safe, call Security.

When should I involve either Student Counselling or EAP Counsellors

If you observe concerning and inappropriate behaviour (for example unusual eye contact, deteriorating dress or personal appearance, confused or irrational speech, agitation) and are concerned for a person’s safety and wellbeing:

If the person is a student, contact the RMIT Student Counselling Service.

  • A Duty Work Counsellor is available weekdays 9am-5pm to provide you with prompt consultation regarding appropriate action.
  • For urgent after hours counselling assistance (between 5.30pm to 8.30am weekdays, and 24 hours at weekends or on public holidays) both staff and students, can contact 99253999. An operator will take details (name, student card number/file number, course, faculty, and your phone number) and someone will phone back within 10 minutes from RMIT’s external Employee Assistance Program.

If the person is a member of staff, contact the relevant Portfolio HR Consultant who will assist in providing advice.

If the person who you observe demonstrating concerning and inappropriate behaviour is a member of the public or a friend or relative of a student/staff member, call Security.

When is a Safety Team an appropriate response to threatening or inappropriate behaviour?

Threatening or inappropriate behaviour may require an immediate response and then a follow up response to manage any ongoing safety issues - including making decisions about what further action should be taken.

An RMIT Safety Team is activated when an incident occurs involving a person demonstrating threatening or inappropriate behaviour which generates ongoing concern about safety.

Who can call for the establishment of a Safety Team?

Any staff member in a position of authority (eg supervisor, line manager, program coordinator/director, course coordinator, administration manager) can identify the need for the formation of an RMIT Safety Team by alerting their Head of School / Business Unit.

Heads of Schools / Business Units have the primary responsibility to activate the Safety Team and must do so promptly when alerted to the need.

The relevant PVC /VP should be notified once the Safety Team is activated.

Membership of Safety Team

The composition of the Safety team is:

  • Head of School /Business Unit (Convener)
  • Manager / Campus Supervisor Security
  • Chief Psychologist, RMIT Counselling
  • Principal Advisor, Health and Safety
  • Senior representative, Academic Registrar’s Group (if concern is about a student) or relevant HR Consultant (if concern is about a member of staff)
  • Other relevant co-opted members.

Responsibilities of Safety Team

Responsibilities of the Safety Team include:

1. Complete OHS Risk Assessment using the appropriate OHS management protocols for incidents involving threatening or inappropriate behaviour

2. Develop a Safety Plan specifically:

  • Identify intervention options and management strategies
  • Consult with University Legal Services
  • Develop action plan including tasks, roles and timing
  • Coordinate the response by all University Services
  • Coordinate and completing documentation
  • Coordinate support and debriefing for those affected by the behaviour

3. Brief and liaise with other relevant services within and outside the University called on to assist in the management of the threat /risk posed by the behaviour

4. Advise on appropriate communication strategies

5. Alert the Crisis Management and Recovery (CMR) Team where there is a reasonable concern that the behaviour will escalate beyond a level 3, Moderate Incident (refer to Critical Incident Policy matrix for guidance on incident classification).

Responsibilities of Head of School / Business Unit

Responsibilities of Head of School / Business Unit in managing threatening or inappropriate behaviour include:

1. Immediately activate the Safety Team when behaviour occurs which is an actual or potential risk to safety and the person involved does not consent to or cooperate with intervention

2. Treat all parties fairly and offer assistance and support

3. Maintain comprehensive records of incidents of threatening or inappropriate behaviour

4. Release funds for external psychiatric, forensic or other assessment of behaviour where deemed necessary by the RMIT Chief Psychologist or by the Principal Advisor Health and Safety

5. Initiate consequential action under relevant RMIT Regulations, Policies, Procedures and Agreements

6. Support training of key staff in responding to mental health risks and threatening or inappropriate behaviour.

Responsibilities of RMIT Security

Responsibilities of Security in managing threatening or inappropriate behaviour include:

1. Respond to incidents or calls for assistance

2. De-escalate and contain incidents

3. Call Police and other emergency services as necessary

4. Provide a proactive security presence where necessary to increase safety. Apply relevant security protocols

5. Consult and assist in implementing local safety plans for complex, persistent risk issues.

Responsibilities of RMIT Counselling Service

Responsibilities of RMIT University Counselling Service in managing threatening or inappropriate behaviour include:

1. Provide confidential counselling to students

2. Provide secondary consultation to staff on appropriate action regarding a student when risk is first observed

3. Offer advice on issues of confidentiality, of ‘duty of care’ and ‘duty to warn’

4. Offer advice regarding referrals to external service such as ambulance, Crisis Assessment Treatment (CAT) Team, mental health services or forensic services and instigate referrals where appropriate

5. Offer crisis intervention and supportive counselling to students affected by distressing event or incident

6. Consult and assist in implementing local safety plans for complex, persistent risk issues

7. Provide training for students and staff regarding student mental health issues.

Note that appropriate operating procedures are put in place to ensure that there is no conflict of interest between primary services provided to individual students / staff and the secondary and tertiary consultation services provided to the University.

Responsibilities of EAP Counselling Service

1. Provide confidential counselling to staff

2. Provide group debriefing to staff affected by workplace incidents or workplace stress

3. Provide consultation to managers on managing staff with mental health issues.

Responsibilities of RMIT Academic Registrar's Office

Responsibilities of RMIT Academic Registrar’s Office in managing threatening or inappropriate behaviour include:

1. Provide advice regarding disciplinary regulation and procedures

2. Consult and assist in implementing local safety plans for complex, persistent and ongoing risk issues.

Responsibilities of RMIT People and Culture

Responsibilities of People and Culture in managing threatening or inappropriate behaviour include:

1. Assess and provide advice on occupational health and safety issues

2. Offer private and confidential counselling for staff through EAP

3. Offer debriefing to staff when requested

4. Offer programs to support staff well being

5. Offer mental health awareness programs for staff

6. Provide advice regarding OH&S and staff disciplinary policies and procedures.

Responsibilities of RMIT Legal Office

Provide advice and assistance on legal issues and processes

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