ROCKFORD, Minn. (FOX 9) - The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office announced Tuesday it will remove its deputy serving as a school resource officer (SRO) at Rockford High School, citing recent changes to Minnesota school discipline laws.
The amendments, which were passed by the Minnesota Legislature this session, do not allow school employees or resource officers to put a student in certain physical holds, including the prone position. Law enforcement agencies have said the new changes cause significant concerns and could limit how peace officers can do their jobs if a situation at school becomes unsafe.
"I believe school resource officers have incredible value in educational environments," said Sheriff Dawanna Witt in a statement. "Unfortunately, the ambiguous limitations imposed this year are incompatible with sworn duties of a licensed peace officer. In an ideal world, there would never be a need for SROs to use physical restraint in the school environment. But when the need to respond to a serious incident arises, they need to know that they will not be held liable for appropriately fulfilling that duty."
The sheriff’s office said the decision to remove the SRO from Rockford High School was "not an easy one to make" and will impact the deputy assigned to the school, along with the staff and students who have formed relationships with the deputy and law enforcement agency.
"While we understand the circumstances that led to this difficult decision, it deeply saddens the school district to know that we won’t see the familiar face of our Hennepin County SRO in the halls when school starts," said Superintendent Dr. Jeff Ridlehoover of the Rockford Area Schools. "My experiences with SROs have been positive ones, SROs are a part of the fabric of the school. They support kids and families in difficult times and build meaningful relationships. We hope that we can welcome them back to our district soon."
In the meantime, the sheriff’s office said it remains hopeful a decision will be reached that allows law enforcement to "safely and appropriately" resume their duties in schools across the state.