MN House passes school resource officer bill clarifying use of force

A vote in the Minnesota House could be the beginning of the end of the fight over how to handle school resource officers.

They overwhelmingly approved a bipartisan bill setting parameters for physical contact with students.

With just a few DFL holdouts, the House voted 124-8 to approve the new bill, which exempts school resource officers from a ban on school teachers and staff from putting students prone for discipline.

Rep. Cedrick Frazier’s bill clarifies the rules for use of force and keeps some restrictions, like a ban on chokeholds.

"This ride has been bumpy," said the New Hope Democrat. "It's been rocky."

SROs also can’t use force to enforce school rules, only to enforce law violations.

Democrats compromised on language allowing officers, but not teachers or other school staff, to put students in the prone position.

A previous law banned that for special needs students, but officers realized it was sometimes hard to figure out who those students were.

"So the legislature last year made an effort to update the law to apply it to all students," said Rep. Jamie Long, DFL-Minneapolis. "Also coming in the wake of the tragic killing of George Floyd and seeing the impact a compressive prone restraint can have."

But several law enforcement agencies pulled their school resource officers out of schools.

Specifically, they believed officers couldn’t use most holds and restraints except in the case of an imminent threat of bodily harm or death.

Republicans called for a special session, but the issue lingered until the legislature came back last month.

"We're happy to be here now," said House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Coldspring.

Frazier crafted the new bill with help from Republican Jeff Witte, who’s a former school resource officer.

Witte says he believes 40 districts still have their SROs kept out of school.

"I'm hoping that we can get them all back into school, with this fix today," said Rep. Witte, R-Lakeville. "And I think this will obviously keep our schools, our students, and our teachers safe, but it will also give our parents some peace of mind."

The Senate is considering a similar bill, but it’s not identical.

Senate Republicans tell FOX 9 they’re not sure how smoothly the process will go on their side, but their House counterparts hope it’ll pass without any trouble.