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A Student Sent to My Office – Now What? Dealing with Discipline as a School Administrator

Hello again,

Part of a school administrator’s duties is to deal with students when they are sent to the office for being disrespectful, disruptive, or defiant in the classroom.

It’s our job to talk with the student, hand out consequences, and contact parents if necessary.

I don’t think any administrator enjoys giving consequences to students, ( I know I don’t ), but I choose to see these meetings as opportunities to teach a lesson on respect, and hopefully impress upon the student the need to avoid repeating the negative behavior.

Recently, I was asked to share my experience with a colleague who was stepping into the school administrator role for the first time.

Although I don’t consider myself an expert in dealing with discipline, I shared with him some of what I’ve learned so far – mostly by trial and error – as a school administrator.

I made a list of what I say to the students when they’re sent to my office.

I thought I’d share that list here in case there are other new-to-school-administration readers.

Disclaimer: This list is primarily for those minor incidences like class disruption, excessive tardies, minor rules violations, etc. Major incidences like fighting, theft, drugs, etc. need to be handled more severely, and this list may not apply.

Questions to Ask a Student Who is Sent to the School Administrator’s Office on a Behavior Referral

1. Do you know why you’re here?

Most students will know why they were being sent up, but having them explain the situation will force them to evaluate how their actions led them to this place.

2. Can you tell me what happened?

By giving them the opportunity to share their side of the incident, you gain valuable information about the causes for their behavior. They might blame the teacher or another student, but just listening to their side tells them that you are interested in them.

3. Why do you think you needed to be sent to the office?

This question causes the student to see the teacher’s point of view. You may have to ask this question a couple of times for them to really start reflecting on why they’re in your office.

4. Is this behavior you?

This question will get the student thinking about his/her reputation. Most students don’t want to be known as the bad kid, so I always follow up with, “You’re right. I don’t think this behavior is who you are.”

5. What could you have done differently?

I love this question, because this is where the learning begins. Students begin to think about what they would do if they had a do-over. Sometimes they need some help with ideas for different choices that they could have made.

6. What is going to happen next time you’re in this situation?

This is a good follow up question to question #5. It’s also a good question for the end of the meeting just as a reminder.

7. Are you a good kid?

Again, you don’t want them leaving your office thinking that they are a bad kid. Almost all students will respond by saying that they are a good kid. Here is where I would reinforce this by agreeing with them. “You’re right. You’re a good kid who just made a bad choice this time. We all make bad choices.”

8. Is this something that you can fix?

Some students will want to blame their friends or the teacher or their ADHD, but most students will take responsibility and promise to make better choices.

9. What should I tell mom or dad?

I like this question, because I can add the question: “Can I tell mom and dad that you admitted to making a poor choice and that you promised to work on making better choices?” When I call parents, I always want to include something positive to help make it a more pleasant phone call. “Your son is a good student, and he admitted to not making the best choice in class today, and he promised that he would do his best to focus more on school and less on trying to be funny.”

10. What can I do to help make sure this won’t happen again?

Most students won’t want any help, but the question demonstrates to them that you are concerned about them.

11. You understand that I have to give you a consequence for this. Right?

Most students are willing to accept a consequence for their behavior. I tell them that if I let them get away with being disrespectful to their teachers, then the other students will want to be disrespectful. Students understand this logic and accept the consequence.


Again, I wish all students were perfect and never made poor choices, but that isn’t reality. We school administrators will have students sent to us on a daily basis, because they weren’t able to control their actions. I believe, however, we have a great opportunity to make some significant changes in their behavior if we just look at these encounters and learning moments.

Asking the right questions is a key factor in making these changes.

These are the questions I ask. I would love to hear what other questions school administrators ask their students.

Please comment below or send me an email.

I hope this was helpful.

If it was, please share it with your Facebook friends or your Twitter followers.

You can find me on Twitter at: @schladmnmastery

Until next time,







  1. June 23, 2012    

    Thanks for these questions to ask for a successful discipline meeting.

    • Sam's Gravatar Sam
      June 23, 2012    

      You’re welcome Bill. I hope you never have to use them. : )

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