What is a School Discipline Referral? - Meaning & Examples

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  • 0:03 A Referral Example
  • 0:41 School Discipline Referrals
  • 3:52 The Process
  • 5:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Stephanie Matalone

Stephanie taught high school science and math and has a Master's Degree in Secondary Education.

In this lesson, we'll discuss what it means for a student to get a discipline referral. We'll review various misbehaviors, the disciplinary actions teachers may take on their own, and behaviors that result in an immediate referral. We'll also discuss what happens after a student gets a referral.

A Referral Example

Yesterday Martha, Mikey's mom, got a call from the vice principal at Mikey's school. He got in trouble in class and his teacher wrote him a referral. Mikey got a week's worth of lunch detention because he kept throwing things across the classroom after his teacher repeatedly told him to stop.

What does this all mean? Right now, Martha is probably furious at Mikey and confused by all this. A referral sounds scary, and it can lead to severe disciplinary measures, but Mikey only got lunch detention and hopefully will learn his lesson.

School Discipline Referrals

So what is a school discipline referral? Well, a school discipline referral is simply a way for a teacher to refer a student to an administrator to be disciplined. It's usually a physical form that a teacher will fill out and turn into the office with information about the incident and what steps the teacher has taken to correct the problem. An administrator (either a principal or vice principal) will be assigned the referral and decide how to officially discipline the student. In other words, a referral means the misbehavior is either too severe for the teacher to properly discipline the student in the classroom or the teacher has tried to discipline the student on his or her own without success.

More serious issues, such as drugs and violence, should always lead to a referral and immediate removal from the classroom. Teachers can decide on a case-by-case basis what actions should result in a referral but issues such as skipping class, bullying students, stealing, and so forth should result in an immediate referral even if it's the student's first time and the teacher hasn't tried to discipline the student on his or her own. Actions like these are severe enough to warrant a referral to show that the teacher won't tolerate these behaviors even once.

In other cases with less severe infractions, a teacher shouldn't use a referral as a first line of discipline. If a student is speaking out of turn, overusing bathroom time, being disruptive, and so forth, the teacher should try to correct these behaviors without a referral. Teacher can use any number of disciplinary techniques, such as a talk with the student, notifying parents, positive reinforcement, and negative consequences to try to deal with the issue. If these techniques aren't working and the teacher can show that he/she made an attempt to continually correct the misbehaviors, then he or she can make a referral. In these cases, referrals should only be used once all other options have been exhausted.

Some schools may have specific rules about behaviors that must result in a referral and what behaviors should be disciplined by a teacher. These rules can vary by grade level and district. Other schools may not have these rules and may leave the decision up to the teacher.

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