Research Library

Suspensions remove students from the learning environment at high rates throughout the United States. Policy and theory highlight social groups that face disproportionately high suspension rates—racial-minoritized students, students with a prior suspension, and students with disabilities. We used an active placebo-controlled, longitudinal field experiment (Nteachers = 66, Nstudents = 5822) to test a scalable “empathic-mindset” intervention, a 45- to 70-min online exercise to refocus middle school teachers on understanding and valuing the perspectives of students and on sustaining positive relationships even when students misbehave. In preregistered analyses, this exercise reduced suspension rates especially for Black and Hispanic students, cutting the racial disparity over the school year from 10.6 to 5.9 percentage points, a 45% reduction. Significant reductions were also observed for other groups of concern. Moreover, reductions persisted through the next year when students interacted with different teachers, suggesting that empathic treatment with even one teacher in a critical period can improve students’ trajectories through school.