The Minnesota Department of Education has recognized 67 schools and six districts as leaders in supporting positive student behavior, improving school climate and boosting student achievement in the 2019-20 school year.

The schools earned the state’s recognition for implementing a preventive approach known as Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS), a national program that uses data to inform behavioral strategies with a focus on reducing disparities in student discipline and increasing student achievement.

“In education, our students are the heart of everything we do. It is critical that they feel supported, especially as they encounter challenging and traumatic issues,” the state’s education Commissioner Mary Cathryn Ricker said in a news release. “I congratulate and thank these schools and districts for reimagining and transforming the way they care for and support our students. Your work not only benefits our schools, but it benefits our communities as a whole.”

Numerous studies show that minority students, particularly black and American Indian students and those with special needs, are suspended more often than their peers.

In recent years, school districts have taken steps to reduce those disparities thanks to mounting public pressure that has spurred the state’s Department of Human Rights to sign agreements with districts to take immediate steps to address disparate handling of student behavior.

Among the districts recognized were St. Paul Public Schools, Osseo Area Schools and Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District.