Making Discipline Decisions for Principals

Discipline decisions
Christopher Futcher/E+/Getty Images

A major facet of a school principal’s job is to make discipline decisions. A principal should not be dealing with every discipline issue in the school, but should instead be focused on dealing with the bigger problems. Most teachers should deal with smaller issues on their own.

Handling discipline issues can be time-consuming. The bigger issues almost always take some investigation and research. Sometimes students are cooperative and sometimes they are not. There will be issues that are straight forward and easy, and there will be those that take several hours to handle. It is essential that you are always vigilant and thorough when collecting evidence.

It is also crucial to understand that each discipline decision is unique and that many factors come into play. It is important that you take into account factors such as the grade level of the student, severity of the issue, history of the student, and how you have handled similar situations in the past.

The following is a sample blueprint of how these issues could be handled. It is only intended to serve as a guide and to provoke thought and discussion. Each of the following problems is typically considered to be a serious offense, so the consequences should be pretty tough. The scenarios given are post-investigation giving you what was proved to have actually happened.


Introduction: Bullying is probably the most dealt with discipline issue at a school. It is also one of the most looked at school problems in the national media due to the increase in teen suicides that have been traced back to bullying problems. Bullying can have a life long effect on victims. There are four basic types of bullying including physical, verbal, social, and cyber bullying.

Scenario: A 5th-grade girl has reported that a boy in her class has been verbally bullying her for the past week. He has continuously called her fat, ugly, and other derogatory terms. He also mocks her in class when she asks questions, coughs, etc. The boy has admitted to this and says he did so because the girl annoyed him.

Consequences: Start by contacting the boy’s parents and asking them to come in for a meeting. Next, require the boy to go through some bullying prevention training with the school counselor. Finally, suspend the boy for three days.

Continuous Disrespect/Failure to Comply

Introduction: This will likely be an issue that a teacher has tried to handle by themselves, but haven’t had success with what they’ve tried. The student hasn’t fixed their behavior and in some cases has gotten worse. The teacher is essentially asking the principal to step in and mediate the issue.

Scenario: An 8th-grade student argues about everything with a teacher. The teacher has talked to the student, given the student detention, and contacted the parents for being disrespectful. This behavior has not improved. In fact, it has gotten to the point that the teacher is starting to see it affect other students’ behavior.

Consequences: Set up a parent meeting and include the teacher. Attempt to get to the root of where the conflict lies. Give the student three days In School Placement (ISP).

Continuous Failure to Complete Work

Introduction: Many students across all grade levels do not complete work or do not turn it in at all. Students who continuously get away with this may have large academic gaps that after time almost becomes impossible to close. By the time a teacher asks for help on this from the principal, it is likely that it has become a serious issue.

Scenario: A 6th-grade student has turned in eight incomplete assignments and hasn’t turned in another five assignments at all over the past three weeks. The teacher has contacted the student’s parents, and they have been cooperative. The teacher has also given the student detention each time they have had a missing or incomplete assignment.

Consequences: Set up a parent meeting and include the teacher. Create an intervention program to hold the student more accountable. For example, require the student to attend a Saturday School if they have a combination of five missing or incomplete assignments. Finally, place the student in ISP until they have caught up on all work. This assures that they will have a fresh start when they return to class.


Introduction: Fighting is dangerous and often leads to injury. The older the students involved in the fight are, the more dangerous the fight becomes. Fighting is an issue you want to create a strong policy with strong consequences to discourage such behavior. Fighting typically doesn’t resolve anything and will likely happen again if it isn’t dealt with appropriately.

Scenario: Two eleventh grade male students got into a major fight during lunch over a female student. Both students had lacerations to their face and one student may have a broken nose. One of the students involved has been involved with another fight previously in the year.

Consequences: Contact both students’ parents. Contact the local police asking them to cite both students for public disturbance and possibly assault and/or battery charges. Suspend the student who has had multiple issues with fighting for ten days and suspend the other student for five days.

Possession of Alcohol or Drugs

Introduction: This is one of the issues which schools have zero tolerance for. This is also one of the areas where the police will have to be involved in and will likely take lead in the investigation.

Scenario: A student initially reported that a 9th-grade student is offering to sell other students some “weed”. The student reported that the student is showing other students the drug and is keeping it in a bag inside their sock. The student is searched, and the drug is found. The student informs you that they stole the drugs from their parents and then sold some to another student that morning. The student that bought the drugs is searched and nothing is found. However, when his locker is searched you find the drug wrapped up in a bag and tucked in his backpack.

Consequences: Both students’ parents are contacted. Contact the local police, advise them of the situation, and turn the drugs over to them. Always make sure that parents are there when police talk to students or that they have given permission to the police for them to talk to them. State laws may vary as to what you are required to do in this situation. A possible consequence would be to suspend both students for the remainder of the semester.

Possession of a Weapon

Introduction: This is another issue which schools have zero tolerance for. Police undoubtedly would be involved in this issue. This issue will bring the harshest consequences for any student violating this policy. In the wake of recent history, many states have laws in place that drive how these situations are dealt with.

Scenario: A 3rd-grade student took his Dad’s pistol and brought it to school because he wanted to show his friends. Luckily it was not loaded, and the clip was not brought.

Consequences: Contact the student’s parents. Contact the local police, advise them of the situation, and turn the gun over to them. State laws may vary as to what you are required to do in this situation. A possible consequence would be to suspend the student for the remainder of the school year. Even though the student had no ill intent with the weapon, the fact remains that it is still a gun and must be dealt with severe consequences in accordance with law.

Profanity/Obscene Material

Introduction: Students of all ages mirror what they see and hear. This often drives the use of profanity at school. Older students especially use inappropriate words often to impress their friends. This situation can quickly get out of control and lead to larger issues. Obscene materials such as having pornography can also be detrimental for obvious reasons.

Scenario: A 10th-grade student telling another student an obscene joke that contains the “F” word is overheard by a teacher in the hallway. This student has never been in trouble before.

Consequences: Profanity issues can warrant a wide range of consequences. Context and history will likely dictate the decision you make. In this case, the student has never been in trouble before, and he was using the word in the context of a joke. A few days of detention would be appropriate for handling this situation.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Meador, Derrick. "Making Discipline Decisions for Principals." ThoughtCo, Jul. 31, 2021, Meador, Derrick. (2021, July 31). Making Discipline Decisions for Principals. Retrieved from Meador, Derrick. "Making Discipline Decisions for Principals." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 30, 2023).