Republicans plan to “turn up the heat” on Gov. Tim Walz and his DFL allies after the governor told local media that he won’t call a special session to address a new law impacting school resource officers (SROs).
“This is a crisis,” said Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls, who worked as a teacher and coach for a dozen years.
Kresha was referring to the news that at least 16 law enforcement agencies won’t be sending SROs back to an estimated 40 school districts as a new state law restricts the types of restraints that can be used on students who are acting illegally.
“Let’s not forget the way the law is written it also prevents janitors, coaches and teachers from intervening,” Kresha said. “I have been a teacher and you sometimes have to use physical interventions, sometimes you have no choice.”
He recalled a lunchroom incident where he had to separate two high school seniors who were “basically grown men and I had to get in the middle and restrain them.”
The Mankato Department of Public Safety was among the agencies to remove SROs from local schools, including Mankato East High School, which went into lockdown Friday after a fight among students. The superintendent of the district said the incident highlighted the need for SROs. City leaders were scheduled to meet Monday night for a work session to discuss possible solutions.
Alleged videos from Friday's fight at Mankato East High School. The school was placed on lockdown. There were no school resource officers on campus in response to a new state law. pic.twitter.com/gzGDSFZLOe
— Alpha News (@AlphaNewsMN) September 10, 2023
“From building strong relationships with students to ensuring their safety, SROs play an invaluable role in our schools. It is imperative that our lawmakers act immediately to provide the clarity necessary for our SROs to return to our school buildings. The safety of our students must rise above politics,” Mankato Area Public Schools Board Chair Shannon Sinning said following Friday’s fight.
Kresha said he has heard from many superintendents, police chiefs, and parents who all have similar concerns. But some members of the DFL Party openly oppose placing police officers in schools, a position they have held since the death of George Floyd, Kresha commented.
“They have accomplished their goal. We have a governor and an attorney general who spent time in Washington, D.C. together and then they come home and spend time trying to convince people they support law enforcement and that’s not true. There is no history of them supporting law enforcement. None,” he said.
Walz told MPR News that police agencies were “getting enough clarity” to renew SRO contracts with local districts. The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, however, said in a letter to members that it was “very disappointing” to hear the governor won’t call a special session.
“The new language created two different standards for use of force — one standard for a school district contracted peace officer and one standard for those who are not,” the letter said. “And while many [police chiefs] have offered good-faith assurances of support to their SROs, they carry no relevance in a court of law or a POST Board hearing.”
Walz’s decision to avoid a special session came after 44 DFL legislators released a statement expressing opposition to revising the law. Kresha said Republican legislators heard about Walz’s decision through MPR.
“At first he seemed open to a special session and the last call the governor had with Republican leadership seemed promising,” he said. “How do you work with a dishonest broker like that?”
“This speaks to the lack of leadership of this governor,” he said. “We are going to turn up the heat calling on Minnesota citizens to do something and get involved or they will wait until something egregious happens. Let’s hope that’s not the case.”
“Nobody wants violence in schools. This could be a simple fix,” he added.
Alpha News reached out to the governor’s office for comment but did not receive a response.