Mankato school sees ‘huge fight,’ lockdown during first week with no SROs

Gov. Tim Walz told MPR News Friday that he won't call a special session at this time to address the issue as he prepares to jet off to Japan Sunday for a business trip. 

Mankato
Mankato East High School went on lockdown for about 30 minutes Friday morning as police responded to a “huge fight” on campus, according to reports. (City of Mankato/Facebook)

Mankato East High School went on lockdown for about 30 minutes Friday morning as police responded to a “huge fight” on campus, according to reports.

This comes as a new state law restricting the types of restraints that can be used on students who are acting illegally prompted numerous police agencies to remove their school resource officers (SROs) from districts across the state, including the Mankato Department of Public Safety. Police say the ambiguous language in the law could open them up to legal ramifications.

Mankato Area Public Schools Superintendent Paul Peterson told families in a Sept. 1 email that SROs “will not be physically located at MAPS schools but will be available on an ‘on call’ basis to assist school staff.”

“While SROs will not be consistently present at East and West High Schools, public safety officers will be available to respond to emergency incidents at each school,” he said. “We hope clarifications to the law are made soon so that SROs can return to our schools.”

Peterson told the Mankato Free Press that Friday’s fight highlights the need for SROs. He explained that SROs are trained to deescalate and resolve interactions between students before they turn violent, and can assess each situation and call for backup themselves instead of having that burden placed on teachers and staff, the Free Press reported.

“We are talking with our public safety partners every day about how to craft temporary plans,” Peterson told the outlet. “We all have an identical long-term plan, which is to get SROs back to school.”

According to a Blue Earth County police scanner page, Mankato police received a report of a “huge fight” near the back of the school from Mankato East High School’s secretary around 10:35 a.m. Dispatch advised that they were receiving multiple calls about the fight. Police who responded to the scene said there was a person lying on the ground and called for backup. A couple minutes later, officers told dispatch that the students involved were calming down but they still needed more officers to respond to the lunch room area.

A spokesperson for the district told the Mankato Free Press that the fight started around 10:30 a.m. and classes resumed around 10:55 a.m. Peterson said there were no significant injuries. The school also went on lockdown as a precautionary measure Wednesday following an off-campus shooting.

Gov. Tim Walz, a former Mankato teacher who worked at Mankato West High School, told MPR News Friday that, at this time, he does not plan to call a special legislative session to revise the law, as law enforcement and many Republican legislators had requested.

According to the report, he claimed police agencies have received enough clarity from the attorney general’s office, insurance providers, and the League of Minnesota Cities to begin renewing their contracts with districts for SRO services.

“That’s getting enough clarity that districts are saying, ‘Sure, we’re back and we’re doing this,’” said Walz, who will be in Japan from Sunday through Wednesday for a conference. “So I think that’s where we stand right now. And we’ll just keep working it.”

Earlier in the week, the governor said he was open to the idea of a special session, but on Thursday, 44 progressive members of the Minnesota Legislature released a statement saying they would not support any changes to the law.

“Keep our kids, teachers, and schools safe [Gov. Walz]. Everyday that passes without a fix for School Resource Officers is a day of unnecessary risk,” Sen. Zach Duckworth, R-Lakeville, said in response to Friday’s incident. “This needs to be resolved now.”

 

Anthony Gockowski
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Anthony Gockowski is Editor-in-Chief of Alpha News. He previously worked as an editor for The Minnesota Sun and Campus Reform, and wrote for the Daily Caller.