Mounds View PD reinstates SROs in area schools following Ellison opinion

After initially removing its school resource officers (SROs) from Edgewood Middle School, Pinewood Elementary School and the Mounds View Bridges Program, the Mounds View Police Department has announced it will once again be partnering with the Mounds View School District.

A press release provided by Police Chief Ben Zender says the police department brought "valid and legitimate" concerns to Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison regarding the "application and uncertainty" surrounding law changes made last legislative session to restraints that could be used on students by law enforcement. 

Following a supplemental legal opinion provided by Ellison, Zender said he had, "made the decision to put our SRO back in the schools," noting that its SRO, "bridges the gap between the youth and police department."

Passed by the Minnesota Legislature, amendments made to current law 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. 

On Sept. 20, Ellison said in a supplemental opinion, "There have been significant misunderstandings about the impact of the new amendments. For example, some have interpreted the amendments as restricting SROs and school professionals from engaging in any physical contact to address non-violent behavior. That is not the case: professionals simply must avoid the restraints identified in Section 121A.58, namely that unless a student poses an imminent threat of bodily harm to self or others, professionals ‘shall not use prone restraint’ and ‘shall not inflict any form of physical holding that restricts or impairs a pupil's ability to breathe; restricts or impairs a pupil's ability to communicate distress; places pressure or weight on a pupil's head, throat, neck, chest, lungs, sternum, diaphragm, back, or abdomen; or results in straddling a pupil's torso.’ If a student is misbehaving in a way that does not and will not harm that student or anyone else, professionals in schools still have many tools at their disposal, including other kinds of physical contact."

Ellison also pointed out that trained school employees do not have to wait until someone is injured to use reasonable force.

"The law says school employees and agents ‘may use reasonable force when it is necessary under the circumstances to restrain a student to prevent bodily harm or death to the student or to another…" Ellison clarified. "The Legislature’s use of the word ‘prevent’ means that when a professional determines a student is about to harm themselves or another, the professional may intervene… I have been in conversation with a variety of stakeholders, including law enforcement, who have raised more questions in good faith. I have also seen misunderstandings of the original opinion and the law. I am issuing this supplemental legal opinion, which is consistent with the conclusions of the original opinion, in an effort to address those good-faith concerns and clarify those misunderstandings."

Since the legislative session, a growing list of police departments have decided to pull officers from school districts.

Minnesota House and Senate Republicans have requested Governor Walz convene a special session to address concerns surrounding the new SRO law. 

Walz has previously said lawmakers are misinterpreting the law and that school resource officers can use reasonable force whenever needed.