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George Sugai, Ph.D. - University of Connecticut. Storrs, CT, US

George Sugai, Ph.D.

Emeritus Professor | University of Connecticut


George Sugai, Ph.D., has expertise in positive behavior support in schools


George Sugai is Emeritus Professor in the Neag School of Education at the University of Connecticut. In 2019 he retired as Carole J. Neag Endowed Chair and Professor with tenure in School of Education at University of Connecticut. His research and practice interests included school-wide positive behavior support, behavioral disorders, applied behavior analysis, organizational management, and classroom and behavior management, and school discipline. He ha been a classroom teacher, program director, personnel preparer, and applied researcher. Currently, he is senior advisor for the OSEP Center on Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports.

Areas of Expertise (8)

Behavioral Sciences

Function-based Behavior Support

School and Classroom Behavior Management

Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports

Applied Behavior Analysis

Positive Behavior Supports

School Climate and Culture

Multi-tiered Support Systems

Education (3)

University of Washington: Ph.D., Special Education 1980

University of Washington: M.Ed., Special Education 1974

University of California, Santa Barbara: B.A., Biological Sciences 1973

Affiliations (4)

  • Association for Positive Behavior Supports, Member
  • Association for Behavior Analysis, Member
  • Council for Exceptional Children, Member
  • Council for Children with Behavior Disorders, Member






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Media Appearances (7)

How Some Schools Restrain Or Seclude Students: A Look At A Controversial Practice

NPR  radio


The Education Department has been funding the development of a program called Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports, or PBIS. It's a framework designed to help schools improve educational outcomes for students with disabilities and emotional and behavioral disorders. According to George Sugai, one of PBIS's senior advisors, the program provides strategies that are designed to reduce the need for restraint and seclusion. Sugai, who's an emeritus professor of special education at the University of Connecticut, also says it's important to note that seclusion and restraint shouldn't be used as the sole intervention for students with challenging behavior. Instead, he encourages teachers to seek more therapeutic responses to students, such as having conversations about why they behaved in certain ways.

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At Betsy DeVos’s federal school safety commission meeting, lessons from first-graders on friendships and fist bumps

Washington Post  print


“You’ve got to focus on teaching social skills just like you would academics,” said George Sugai, a University of Connecticut professor of special education who studies Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports. He said schools that have faithfully and consistently implemented the program — which includes interventions for students who misbehave — have seen results. If schools implement the strategy, “you’re likely to see decreases in referrals for major infractions. You’re likely to see decreases in bullying,” Sugai said.

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Zeroing in on Zero Tolerance

National Public Radio  radio

Zero tolerance policies send a strong message to students but at what cost? This hour, we examine how over time, these policies have led to suspensions and expulsions for minor issues -- and can have drastic effects on a student’s future.

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The Brutal Years

New York Times  print

She describes a headmaster who was able to transform the climate at his school largely through charisma, will and the methodology proposed by George Sugai, who believes that positive rewards given to students for positive social skills may be just as effective as punishment for those who are out of line.

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How to Stop Bullying

Scientific American  print

PBIS is all about strengthening the connections between students and adults, for starters by building calm and order. Schools start by looking closely at the number of and reasons for referrals to the principal’s office—a key indicator of the health of a school, according to George Sugai, one of the framework’s creators. The idea is to figure out why exactly kids are getting referred for discipline and also where the bad behavior occurs. With the answers in hand, schools can address “hot spots” and then teachers can focus on students’ positive behavior—the ordinary things they do right during the day.PBIS wasn’t designed to address bullying directly, but a 2012 study by a team of researchers from Johns Hopkins found that teachers in PBIS schools reported less bullying and peer rejection than teachers in schools without PBIS.

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In efforts against bullying, some school districts stand out

Boston Globe  print

George Sugai, co-director of the National Center of Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports and a professor at the University of Connecticut Neag School of Education, said research shows that “if classrooms and schools are positive, safe, and caring, [the] likelihood of bullying decreases.”

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Studies Flag Potential Downside to Inclusion

Education Week  print

Some researchers have recently found that young children without disabilities are negatively affected when they're educated in the same classrooms as students with emotional and behavioral disabilities.

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Articles (5)

Reopening schools requires doing less, better

CT Viewpoints

George Sugai and Sandra Chafouleas


For educators, families, and communities, April is bringing a welcome sign of hope to a year of unchartered challenges as political unrest, COVID-19, social and racial disparities, and violence have disrupted and dismantled our schools’ traditional approach to education. The appointment of Miguel A. Cardona as the 12th Secretary of Education and the passing of the American Rescue Plan of 2021 does make it feel like spring, in fact, has sprung. The possibility of equitable school environments for our nation’s children appears tangible, however, recovery must attend to more than filling holes with intent to return to a “new normal.”

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Implementing Effective Educational Practices at Scales of Social Importance

Clinical Child and Family Psychology Review

Robert H. Horner, George Sugai, and Dean L. Fixsen

2017 Implementing evidence-based practices is becoming both a goal and standard across medicine, psychology, and education. Initial successes, however, are now leading to questions about how successful demonstrations may be expanded to scales of social importance. In this paper, we review lessons learned about scaling up evidence-based practices gleaned from our experience implementing school-wide positive behavioral interventions and supports (PBIS) across more than 23,000 schools in the USA. We draw heavily from the work of Flay et al. (Prev Sci 6:151–175, 2005. doi:10.1007/s11121-005-5553-y) related to defining evidence-based practices, the significant contributions from the emerging “implementation science” movement (Fixsen et al. in Implementation research: a synthesis of the literature, University of South Florida, Louis de la Parte Florida Mental Health Institute, The National Implementation Research Network (FMHI Publication #231), Tampa 2005), and guidance we have received from teachers, family members, students, and administrators who have adopted PBIS.

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Assessing Teachers’ Behavior Support Skills

Teacher Education and Special Education

Diane Myers, George Sugai, Brandi Simonsen, Jennifer Freeman

2017 In this article, the authors provide an overview of empirically supported practices and techniques for monitoring and assessing teachers’ use of effective behavior support practices. They focus on how teacher preparation programs, administrators, and supervising teachers provide pre-service teachers with helpful feedback on their teaching performance. In addition, they describe a behaviorally based conceptual model for assessing teachers’ fluent and sustained use of empirically supported classroom behavior support practices and provide recommendations for enhancing the preparation of pre-service educators.

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Classroom Management With Exceptional Learners

Teaching Exceptional Children

Diane Myers, Jennifer Freeman, Brandi Simonsen, and George Sugai


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MTSS Coaching: Bridging Knowing to Doing

Theory into Practice

Jennifer Freeman, George Sugai, Brandi Simonsen, and Susannah Everett

2016 Improving educator effectiveness and school functioning requires continuous attention to practice selection, implementation fidelity, and progress monitoring, especially in the context of systemic school reform efforts. As such, supporting professional development must be targeted, comprehensive, efficient, and relevant. In particular, coaching must be established to bridge the implementation gap from knowing-to-doing. To increase the precision with which we develop and use coaching supports, we describe how (a) coaching is conceptualized, described, and operationalized within a multi-tiered system of support (MTSS) framework using a behavioral approach; (b) professional development activities are considered from a teaching and phases of learning perspective; and (c) critical coaching components are implemented from within a multi-tiered support systems framework. Existing and future research about effective coaching is also considered.

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