Study: Brief intervention to encourage empathic discipline cuts suspension rates in half among adolescents

There is increasing concern about rising discipline citations in K–12 schooling and a lack of means to reduce them. Predominant theories characterize this problem as the result of punitive discipline policies (e.g., zero-tolerance policies), teachers’ lack of interpersonal skills, or students’ lack of self-control or social–emotional skills. By contrast, the present research examined teachers’ mindsets about discipline.


A brief intervention aimed at encouraging an empathic mindset about discipline halved student suspension rates over an academic year. This intervention, an online exercise, can be delivered at near-zero marginal cost to large samples of teachers and students.


These findings could mark a paradigm shift in society’s understanding of the origins of and remedies for discipline problems.


  1. Jason A. Okonofua
  2. David Paunesku
  3. Gregory M. Walton