Following a second legal opinion from Attorney General Keith Ellison, DFL leaders are indicating that they will not call a special session to address a new law impacting school resource officers but instead will hold “public hearings” on the topic next session.
The changes to Minnesota’s school discipline laws, included in a DFL-backed education omnibus bill passed last session, prohibit school employees and agents of a school, such as SROs, from using the prone restraint on students or any other hold that restricts a student’s ability to breathe or communicate distress, results in straddling their torso, or places pressure on their “head, throat, neck, chest, lungs, sternum, diaphragm, back or abdomen.”
Ellison issued a legal opinion Aug. 22 to clarify that these restrictions do not apply in cases where there is a threat of bodily harm or death. This letter did little to ease the concerns of law enforcement as nearly 40 police agencies have since removed their SROs from schools.
Ellison’s supplementary opinion released Wednesday says the restrictions do not apply in cases where SROs are carrying out their “lawful duties,” such as making an arrest or enforcing a court order.
Law enforcement leaders met with Ellison, Walz, and legislators Wednesday night to discuss the issue.
“Last night I had a productive meeting with law enforcement and legislative leaders where we made significant progress in coming to an agreement that will help ensure school safety. Law enforcement leaders came to the Attorney General with valid questions, and I am grateful for the Attorney General’s binding opinion clarifying that school resource officers can continue to do their jobs effectively. I am committed to further addressing this issue next legislative session and eager to see school resource officers return to schools as soon as possible,” Walz said in a statement released to the media.
Despite the second opinion from Ellison, several law enforcement agencies told KSTP that they don’t plan to send SROs back to school at this time.
“We have presented the facts of the meeting and the AGO and offered that I do feel law enforcement has clearer direction now. We remain optimistic that the legislature will fix this as soon as possible during the next session though,” the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association’s executive director told the outlet.
House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, and Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, committed in a statement to holding “public hearings about SROs in the House and the Senate within the first two weeks of the 2024 legislative session.”
“Hearings don’t change the law, which everyone, including Walz and Attorney General Ellison, agrees needs legislative work,” Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, responded. “We need clear, legislative solutions that are passed by the House and Senate and signed by the Governor. Law enforcement deserves better than the lip service they are getting from legislative leaders and our students need more than just signed agreements to keep their Student Resource Officers in schools.”