5 Easy Steps for Managing Your School’s Discipline Referrals

A consistent discipline process helps your school run more smoothly.

Your school’s behavior management system must have the proper tools so teachers and administrators can take consistent action when students violate rules. The discipline referral process will be different among elementary, middle, high schools, and institutes of higher education. Establishing a sound discipline referral system isn’t easy, because students, parents, teachers, and administrators may all have different opinions about what “good behavior” is.

However, if you take the time to establish a relevant, fair discipline referral process and implement it with consistency, the school will run more effectively, and more importantly, the students that behave properly will experience fewer interruptions to their learning due to the actions of unruly students. Here are 5 steps for improving your school’s discipline referral process.
1. Define Problem Behaviors as Specifically as Possible
What constitutes a behavior violation should be defined in terms of action, motivation, location, whether others are involved, and what the administrative consequences are. Within a school system, specific problem behaviors should be defined and tailored to the individual schools. Some problems only apply to certain students. For example, student parking violations only happen at the high school and higher education levels. All staff should agree on these definitions so that data entry concerning an infraction is always straightforward and not subject to multiple interpretations.
2. Create a Simple, Predictable Process for Handling Behavior Problems
When the discipline referral process is known in advance and followed consistently, students, parents, teachers, and administrators know what to expect. The discipline referral system will likely vary based on whether an infraction is considered major or minor, and on whether a student has a record of repeated infractions. For example, some schools escalate cases of more than a threshold number of minor infractions to a major infraction. Spelling out what happens at each stage of the discipline referral process makes it clear to all parties involved.
3. Define Which Behaviors Are Classroom-Managed and Which are Office-Managed
The discipline referral process should differentiate between violations that are handled in the classroom by the teacher and those that warrant referral to the principal or vice principal’s office. Classroom-managed violations may include things like not being prepared, refusing to work, sleeping, or tardiness. Office-managed violations are generally more serious and would include behaviors like possession of drugs or alcohol, fighting, smoking, vandalism, sexual harassment, or leaving the classroom without permission.
4. Strive to Do Away with Inconsistencies in Discipline Referrals

Students, parents, teachers, and administrators must all be on the same page as far as knowing what constitutes a behavior violation and what the consequences will be. When infractions are defined and addressed in a consistent manner, the discipline referral process is fairer and more straightforward. Inconsistencies within rules (such as pushing and shoving not counting as fighting, but a thrown punch always counting as fighting) must be addressed so that everyone understands what actions are considered violations and how they will be handled.
5. Establish a Process for Handing Repeat Minor Offenses
A student who repeatedly makes minor rules violations can be just as disruptive as a student who violates rules in a more major way. Therefore, it’s important for schools to make clear that a series of minor infractions will eventually be escalated to a larger

Consistency in discipline earns the respect of parents and students.

action. For example, a fourth minor rule violation may go from being a classroom-handled infraction to one that requires a discipline referral to the principal’s office or that requires contact with the student’s parent to be made.

Key Elements of the Discipline Referral Process
An effective discipline referral process should be a comprehensive system for dealing with misbehavior that is clearly defined for students, parents, teachers, and administrators. The process should include documentation, which can be done via electronic forms that are automatically routed to the proper authorities, acted upon, and archived when the incident is resolved. When the discipline referral process is designed to automatically notify parents when appropriate, violations can be addressed more quickly than if a note is sent home.
With workflow software like ProcessMaker, you can create a sensible, consistent discipline referral process that incorporates transparency throughout for all parties involved. And you can do so without having to write code or hire a programmer. ProcessMaker is flexible, powerful, and easy to use, and you can customize workflows to meet your school’s unique needs. Better still, you can try out the ProcessMaker Enterprise Edition for free or download the ProcessMaker Community Edition for free. Don’t let your school’s discipline referral process get bogged down in inconsistencies and outdated technology.


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