MINNEAPOLIS — With Minnesota students back in classrooms and the school year in full swing, more police departments continue to remove school resource officers, or SROs, from buildings, citing changes and ongoing confusion around use-of-force laws.
Earlier this summer, law enforcement agencies around the metro and outstate Minnesota voluntarily began pulling their officers from working as SROs in the wake of new changes in Minnesota's education laws passed in 2023. A provision in the Omnibus Education Bill signed by Gov. Tim Walz in May bars school-based officers from placing students in the prone position or physical holds that subject them to "comprehensive restraint on the head, neck and across most of the torso.”
They say the amendments limit the ability of officers to do their jobs, undermine their authority to respond to situations involving student safety and could make officers liable for criminal charges or lawsuits.
“Prohibiting the most basic measure of safely restraining and controlling the aggressor in a fight severely impacts the SRO’s ability to intervene, stop the altercation, and protect everyone’s safety,” Jeff Potts, executive director of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, wrote to Gov. Walz last month.
Gov. Tim Walz has said he doesn't believe a special session is necessary because the changes made in school laws didn't negate the underlying use of force standards set out in Minnesota Statute 609.06 for all licensed police officers in all situations. Walz believes police can return to their school posts if the state's legal team can clarify how the rules will be applied.
"We can make sure these SROs are developing relationships in schools, befriending students, doing preventative, which is 99 percent of this, but also feeling like they’re not under risk if they need to do something to avert bodily harm," Walz told reporters.
"Legislative intent on this was very clear; to protect our students but to continue to give law enforcement what is clearly in law in 609.06 the authority to use force when necessary."
In August, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison issued a legal opinion interpreting the statewide school discipline laws. At the time, he said the amendments don't limit the types of force used if they are utilized to prevent bodily harm or death. However, if a physical hold is used, it must be considered "reasonable." He went on to say that if there's no threat of bodily harm or death, then the school staff or agent should refrain from using any physical holds.
Officials with the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA) also responded to Ellison with concerns about the law, calling it "ambiguous and unclear."
On Sept. 20, Ellison issued an updated opinion to clarify and address "significant misunderstandings" about the amendments, and said they "do not limit the types of reasonable force that may be used by public officers."
Republican lawmakers have urged Walz to reconvene the legislature to undo the new ban on using physical restraints in schools. Democrats who chair the education policy and finance committee issued a statement last month saying, in part, that "Governor Walz’s administration is working diligently to ensure that districts and law enforcement have the guidance they need to do their jobs effectively."
Though earlier this month Gov. Walz said he was "open" to the possibility of a special session to address concerns around the law, Walz has since stated he doesn't think a special session is necessary.
Below is a list of law enforcement agencies that have confirmed they will remove SROs from local school districts:
Anoka County Sheriff's Office: Removed form Andover High School, Oak View Middle School, Andover Elementary, Crooked Lake Elementary School and Rum River Elementary School
Anoka Police: Removed from Anoka High School, Anoka Middle School for the Arts
Apple Valley Police: Removed from District 196 schools
Blaine Police: Removed from Blaine High School, Roosevelt Middle School (Anoka-Hennepin School District), Centennial School District and the Spring Lake Park School District
Champlin Police: Removed from Jackson Middle School, Champlin Brooklyn Park Academy
Clay County Sheriff's Office: Removed from Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton District (ISD 2164) and Ulen-Hitterdal Public Schools
Coon Rapids Police: Removed from Coon Rapids High School, Coon Rapids Middle School, Northdale Middle School, River Trail Learning Center at L.O. Jacob
Eagan Police: Removed SROs from schools in Eagan, announced Sept. 20, 2023
Hennepin County Sheriff's Office: Removed from Rockford High School (Rockford Area School District 883)
Moorhead Police: Removed from Moorhead Area Public Schools
Mounds View Police: Removed from the Mounds View School District
New Hope Police: Removed from District 281 after initially beginning the school year with an SRO presence at Cooper High School
Plymouth Police: Removed from Armstrong High School and Plymouth Middle School
Ramsey County Sheriff's Office: Removed from six schools
Wayzata Police: Removed from Wayzata School District middle schools and high school
White Bear Lake Police: Removed from White Bear Lake Area Schools
However, several police departments and schools have said they will keep their SRO programs in place, including Bloomington Police, Brooklyn Park Police, Chaska Police, Edina Police, Faribault Police, Minnetonka Police and the Shakopee Police Department.
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