Getting a referral in school can be a scary experience for students. If you’ve received a referral, you probably have a lot of questions about what happens next and how it could impact your academic record.

If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: Getting a referral usually means you’ll have to meet with the principal or vice principal to discuss your behavior. You may receive detention, in-school suspension, or even out-of-school suspension as a consequence.

Referrals can negatively impact your permanent record if you get too many.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about getting a referral in school, including what it means, the usual consequences, how it can affect your permanent record, and tips for avoiding referrals in the future.

What Exactly is a Referral in School?

A referral in school refers to an official documentation of misbehavior by a student. It is a way for teachers and administrators to record and address any disciplinary issues that may arise within the school environment.

When a student receives a referral, it means that they have been reported for engaging in behavior that goes against the school’s code of conduct or rules.

Official Documentation of Misbehavior

A referral serves as official documentation of the misbehavior and is typically written by the teacher or staff member who witnessed the incident. It outlines the details of the incident, including the date, time, location, and a description of what occurred.

This documentation is important for keeping a record of the student’s behavior and can be used as a reference in future disciplinary actions or meetings with parents.

Can Happen for Minor or Major Issues

A referral can be issued for both minor and major issues. It is not limited to serious offenses but can also be given for smaller infractions such as tardiness, dress code violations, or disruptions in class.

The severity of the referral will depend on the nature of the offense and the school’s disciplinary policies. It is important to note that referrals are intended to address and correct behavior rather than solely punish the student.

Teacher Decision or School Policy

Whether a referral is issued by a teacher or based on school policy can vary. In some cases, teachers have the discretion to issue referrals for incidents that occur within their classrooms. In other instances, schools may have specific policies in place that outline when and how referrals should be given.

These policies ensure consistency in addressing disciplinary matters and provide guidelines for teachers to follow.

It is important for students to understand the consequences of receiving a referral and the importance of adhering to the school’s code of conduct. By maintaining positive behavior and following the rules, students can avoid the need for referrals and create a more positive and productive learning environment.

Common Reasons Students Get Referrals

Referrals in school are given to students as a consequence for a variety of reasons. While each school may have its own specific set of rules and guidelines, there are some common reasons why students may receive referrals.

Understanding these reasons can help students navigate their school environment and make better choices. Here are some of the most common reasons students get referrals:

Classroom Disruption

One of the most prevalent reasons for students receiving referrals is classroom disruption. This can include behaviors such as talking out of turn, being disrespectful to the teacher or peers, consistently failing to follow instructions, or engaging in distracting activities during class time.

Classroom disruptions can hinder the learning environment for everyone and disrupt the flow of the lesson. Teachers often give referrals to address these behaviors and maintain a productive classroom atmosphere.


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Dress Code Violations

Another common reason for students receiving referrals is dress code violations. Schools typically have specific guidelines regarding appropriate attire, and when students fail to adhere to these guidelines, they may be given a referral.

Dress code violations can include wearing inappropriate clothing, such as clothing with offensive language or images, clothing that exposes too much skin, or clothing that promotes violence or drug use.

Referrals for dress code violations aim to enforce a safe and respectful environment for all students.

Fighting or Aggression

Fighting or displaying aggressive behavior is a serious offense in schools and can lead to severe consequences, including referrals. Physical altercations between students can not only result in harm to those involved but also create a hostile and unsafe environment for others.

Schools have strict policies against fighting and aggression, and referrals are given to address these behaviors and promote a peaceful learning environment.


Bullying and harassment are significant concerns in schools, and students who engage in such behaviors often receive referrals. Bullying can take many forms, including physical, verbal, or cyberbullying.

Harassment can involve actions such as making offensive comments or gestures, spreading rumors, or intentionally excluding others. Schools take these issues seriously and use referrals as a means to address and prevent bullying and harassment.

Cell Phone/Electronics Abuse

The misuse of cell phones and other electronic devices is another reason why students may receive referrals. Many schools have policies that restrict the use of cell phones during instructional time or in specific areas of the school.

Students who use their phones inappropriately, such as texting during class or recording others without permission, may face disciplinary actions, including referrals. These policies help maintain a focused learning environment and prevent distractions.


Academic integrity is of utmost importance, and schools have strict policies against cheating and plagiarism. Students who are caught cheating on tests, copying someone else’s work, or using unauthorized resources may receive referrals.

Referrals for cheating or plagiarism aim to uphold academic honesty and teach students the importance of hard work and integrity.

It is important for students to be aware of these common reasons for receiving referrals in school. By understanding and following the rules and guidelines, students can avoid disciplinary actions and create a positive and conducive learning environment for themselves and their peers.


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What Happens After You Get a Referral

Sent to the Principal/Vice Principal

When a student receives a referral in school, one of the first steps is for the referral to be sent to the principal or vice principal. These school administrators are responsible for handling disciplinary matters and ensuring that appropriate actions are taken.

They review the details of the referral and determine the next course of action.

Student-Administrator Conference

After receiving a referral, the principal or vice principal may request a student-administrator conference. This is an opportunity for the student to explain their side of the story and provide any relevant information.

The conference allows the school administrator to gain a better understanding of the incident and make an informed decision regarding disciplinary actions.

Notification of Parents

Once the school administrators have reviewed the referral and held a conference with the student, the next step is to notify the parents or guardians. This is done to keep them informed about the incident and any actions that will be taken.

It is important for parents to be involved in the process to ensure that there is open communication between the school and home.

Disciplinary Consequences

After reviewing the referral, holding a conference, and notifying the parents, the principal or vice principal will determine the appropriate disciplinary consequences. These consequences can vary depending on the severity of the incident and the school’s disciplinary policies.

They may include anything from a warning or detention to suspension or expulsion.

It’s important to remember that each school may have its own specific procedures and policies when it comes to handling referrals. It’s always a good idea for students and parents to familiarize themselves with these guidelines to understand what to expect in case of a referral.

Potential Consequences of Getting a Referral

When a student receives a referral in school, it can have various consequences depending on the severity of the infraction. These consequences are intended to teach the student a lesson and encourage them to make better choices in the future.

Let’s take a look at some of the potential consequences that may occur when a student gets a referral.


One common consequence of receiving a referral is being assigned detention. Detention typically involves staying after school for a specified period of time, during which the student is required to complete additional work or reflect on their actions.

This serves as a reminder of the importance of following school rules and can be an effective deterrent for future misbehavior.

In-School Suspension

In more serious cases, a student may be given an in-school suspension. This means that the student is removed from their regular classes and is required to complete their schoolwork in a designated area, often under the supervision of a staff member.

In-school suspension provides a structured environment for the student to reflect on their behavior while still allowing them to continue their academic studies.

Out-of-School Suspension

In some cases, a student may face an out-of-school suspension as a consequence for their actions. This means that the student is temporarily banned from attending school for a specific period of time. Out-of-school suspension can have significant academic and social consequences for the student, as they may fall behind in their coursework and miss out on important classroom interactions.

Restitution/Community Service

Depending on the nature of the offense, a student may be required to make restitution or perform community service as part of their disciplinary action. This could involve repairing or replacing damaged property, or participating in activities that benefit the school or local community.

Restitution and community service serve as a way for students to take responsibility for their actions and make amends.

Loss of Privileges

Another consequence of getting a referral can be the loss of certain privileges. This could include being banned from participating in extracurricular activities, attending school events, or using certain facilities or resources.

By taking away privileges, schools aim to show students the importance of following rules and behaving appropriately.

It’s important for students to understand that receiving a referral can have serious consequences. However, it’s also an opportunity for growth and learning. By reflecting on their actions and taking responsibility for their behavior, students can make positive changes and avoid future disciplinary issues.

How Referrals Can Impact Your Permanent Record

Receiving a referral in school can have long-lasting effects on your permanent record. It is important to understand the potential consequences that come with this disciplinary action. Here are some ways in which referrals can impact your academic journey:

Repeated Offenses Look Bad

When a student repeatedly receives referrals, it can create a negative perception of their behavior and attitude towards learning. Schools and colleges value students who demonstrate good conduct and a strong commitment to their education.

Repeated offenses can lead to a tarnished reputation and make it harder for students to gain the trust of teachers and administrators.

According to a report by West Virginia Department of Education, students with a history of referrals are more likely to face challenges in their academic and personal lives.

The study found that these students have a higher likelihood of dropping out of school and are less likely to pursue higher education.

May Affect College Applications

When applying to colleges, your permanent record plays a significant role in the admissions process. Colleges often review disciplinary records as part of their evaluation of prospective students. If a college sees a pattern of referrals or serious disciplinary issues, it may raise concerns about your ability to handle the responsibilities of college life.

Additionally, some colleges may require applicants to disclose any disciplinary actions they have faced. Failure to disclose a referral could be considered a violation of the college’s code of conduct and may jeopardize your admission. It is essential to be honest and transparent about your disciplinary history when applying to colleges.

Could Lead to Expulsion

In severe cases, referrals can lead to expulsion from school. Expulsion is a serious consequence that can have significant academic and social implications for students. Being expelled can disrupt your education and make it challenging to find another school willing to accept you.

According to data from the U.S. Department of Education, there were approximately 12,000 students expelled from public schools during the 2018-2019 academic year. Expulsion rates vary by state and school district, but the consequences are universally impactful.

It’s important to remember that referrals and their impact on your permanent record are not the end of the world. Many schools offer support services and opportunities for students to learn from their mistakes and improve their behavior.

Seeking guidance from teachers, counselors, or mentors can help you navigate the aftermath of a referral and work towards a positive future.

Tips to Avoid Getting a Referral

Know and Follow School Rules

One of the best ways to avoid getting a referral is to familiarize yourself with the school rules and regulations. Make sure you understand what is expected of you as a student and follow those guidelines diligently.

This includes knowing the dress code, behaving appropriately in class, and respecting your teachers and peers. By being aware of and abiding by the rules, you can significantly reduce the chances of receiving a referral.

Avoid Distractions and Remain Focused

Distractions can be a major hindrance to your academic progress and may lead to referrals. It’s important to create a conducive environment for yourself, free from distractions such as cell phones, social media, or disruptive friends.

By staying focused on your studies and eliminating distractions, you can stay on track and minimize the likelihood of getting a referral.

Get Help with Subjects You’re Struggling With

If you find yourself struggling with certain subjects, don’t hesitate to seek help. Whether it’s reaching out to your teacher, joining a study group, or seeking tutoring, there are various resources available to assist you in understanding difficult concepts.

By addressing your academic challenges proactively, you can avoid falling behind and reduce the chances of disciplinary issues that may result in a referral.

Talk to a Counselor If You Have Problems

It’s essential to communicate with a counselor or trusted adult if you’re facing any personal or emotional difficulties. They can provide guidance, support, and resources to help you navigate through challenging situations.

By addressing these issues early on, you can prevent them from escalating and potentially causing behavioral problems that may lead to a referral.

Stay Out of Trouble Outside School

While school is the primary setting where referrals are issued, it’s important to remember that your behavior outside of school can also have consequences. Engaging in illegal activities, participating in fights, or being involved in other forms of trouble can result in referrals and other serious consequences.

It’s crucial to make wise choices and surround yourself with positive influences both inside and outside of school to maintain a clean disciplinary record.

By implementing these tips, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of receiving a referral in school. Remember, your actions and choices have an impact on your academic success and overall well-being.


Getting a referral at school can have consequences ranging from detention to suspension to permanent marks on your record. The best way to avoid the negative impacts of a referral is knowing the rules and staying focused and out of trouble in class.

With this comprehensive guide, you now understand exactly what happens when a student gets a referral. While one referral likely won’t ruin your academic career, repeated offenses could lead to expulsion or make it harder to get into college.

Use the tips provided to follow school rules, stay engaged in class, and avoid risky behaviors to keep your record clean and your education on track.

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