ST. PAUL, Minn. (FOX 9) - Amid a renewed call for a special session on the law covering School Resource Officers (SROs) in Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz is meeting Wednesday night with legislative leaders, the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, Minnesota Sheriff’s Association, League of Minnesota Cities, and the Attorney General’s Office.
Earlier Wednesday, the Eagan Police Department became the latest law enforcement agency to remove its SROs from schools. Apple Valley, Maple Grove, New Hope and White Bear Lake also removed their officers this week.
Law enforcement agencies have raised the alarm in recent weeks over the law change in the last legislative session that bars SROs from using specific holds and putting students in the prone position. Officials have argued that the new law creates confusion on when and how officers can intervene in conflicts at school.
Click here for a list of agencies that have announced their plans for their SRO programs.
Wednesday evening Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison issued a clarification about the new school resource officer law.
Ellison says the new amendments to the education law recently passed do allow for officers to engage in physical contact if they are preventing bodily harm or death. Officers just can't use the restraints outlined in the law, including the prone restraint.
"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," Ellison wrote in a statement of clarification. "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 points out 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."
Read the AG’s supplemental opinion at https://www.ag.state.mn.us/Office/Opinions/169f-20230920.pdf
"My original legal opinion last month addressed only the question of whether the recent amendments to school-discipline laws allow the use of prone restraints and other techniques in cases of imminent physical harm to self or others," Ellison said in a statement. "Since then, 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."
House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth (R-Cold Spring) renewed a call for a special session Wednesday.
"For weeks schools, law enforcement, and legislators have been asking Governor Walz to call a special session to fix this problem and get school resource officers back to their posts," Demuth said in a statement. "Despite encouraging comments earlier this month about working together, we've had just one meeting with the Governor who has continued to hold closed door meetings only including Democrat legislators. Otherwise there's been zero meaningful progress even as the list of schools who have suspended SRO coverage continues to grow. We need the Governor to realize that explanations aren't helping. It's time to include all four caucuses in these discussions, come up with a solution that can pass both chambers, call a special session, and fix this for our schools."
This is a developing story. FOX 9 will have updates on FOX 9 News at 9 and 10 p.m. and on this article as they are made available.