Walz now says he’s open to special session to fix new law impacting school resource officers

While Republican legislative leaders say they're "very encouraged" by the governor’s change in tone, others are less than optimistic the DFL majority in the House will sign on.

Gov. Tim Walz greets students during a back to school event Tuesday. (Office of Gov. Tim Walz/Flickr)

While students across the state are now back in class, the list of secondary schools that will begin the year without a school resource officer continues to grow.

On Monday the Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office announced it will pull its officers it has contracted as SROs from six schools in the east metro. Well more than a dozen law enforcement agencies across the state have now pulled their SROs from school campuses in the wake of a new law they say the legislature needs to fix so their officers can safely do their jobs.

And now Gov. Tim Walz appears to be responding to that pressure.

During an interview before the public at the state fairgrounds on Monday, Walz told WCCO TV and fairgoers he’s now open to the possibility of calling a special session to fix the law, which the DFL-controlled legislature passed on party lines in May.

Last month, when pressed by media to react to the law enforcement leaders’ request for a special session to fix the law, Walz only said that he would work with his legal team to better understand and clarify the law with the Department of Education. On Labor Day at the fair, he changed his tone.

“What we’ve asked is, and I think this started to happen this week, is that we have law enforcement, working with folks in the Senate, and I think you are going to have Leader Demuth up here, who is a good, smart legislator, I think they are working out language on this,” Walz said during his on-stage interview with WCCO. “If that’s the path to make sure we get the fix, then that’s what we’ll do.”

Those comments followed a press conference that Republican legislators held last week to request Walz call a special session over the issue that continues to impact a growing list of schools across the state. House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, led off that press conference, in which she was joined by a number of law enforcement leaders and school administrators who expressed their support for a special session.

Demuth, who also participated in the fairgrounds interview with WCCO TV, said she was “very encouraged to hear the governor this morning say that there is still a chance that we could do that special session.”

Other Republican leaders echoed those sentiments, but said Walz created the problem for himself.

Gov. Walz “could have addressed this issue before schools started when Republican legislators first raised concerns about the importance of having school resource officers protecting our learning environment,” said Minnesota Republican Party of Minnesota Chair David Hann, a former legislator. “Instead, hundreds of thousands of families sent their children to school today, knowing their children’s safety has never been more at risk.”

DFL legislative leaders vague on whether they support special session

WCCO political reporter Esme Murphy tweeted Monday afternoon that DFL leaders in the House and Senate are “continuing to have conversations” about the issue. But both statements that Speaker of the House Melissa Hortman and Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic provided to Murphy stop short of using the word “special session.”

The Minnesota Peace and Police Officers Association and Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association say the new law restricts what holds an officer can use to deescalate students acting violently or illegally in schools. Walz’s Department of Education included the change in a sweeping, 300-plus page education bill it proposed in February. DFL legislators who lead education committees in the House and Senate carried the bill, which included those restrictions impacting SROs in schools. While not all law enforcement agencies are pulling their SROs from schools, law enforcement industry leaders contend the Walz administration never informed them of the legislation while it was working its way through the House and Senate.

Even as Republican leaders are holding out hope Walz’s change of tone will result in action, some legislators in their caucus aren’t as optimistic.

“The governor is doing exactly what he does best,” said Rep. Elliott Engen, R-White Bear Township. “He’s giving a political answer to a serious issue when he knows the activist DFL legislators who are ruling the roost in the House knew exactly what they were doing when they passed this bill; it was intended effectively as a means of defunding the police.”

Engen, who sits on the House Public Safety Committee, said he would be pleasantly surprised if some of his DFL colleagues who have expressed their desire to keep police out of schools change their tone and sign onto a special session to fix the law.

“We can all agree that school safety should not be a partisan issue,” Engen said. “But quite frankly, we have DFL members in the House who are bold enough to sacrifice student safety in schools to score political points.”

Law enforcement agencies that have pulled their school resource officers out of schools as of Wednesday, Sept. 6, include:

  1. Ramsey County Sheriff’s Office
  2. St. Cloud Police Department
  3. Mankato Police Department
  4. Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office
  5. Wayzata Police Department
  6. Burnsville Police Department
  7. Champlin Police Department
  8. Anoka County Sheriff’s Office
  9. Coon Rapids Police Department
  10. Anoka Police Department
  11. Blaine Police Department
  12. Moorhead Police Department
  13. St. Louis County Sheriff’s Office
  14. Alexandria Police Department
  15. Clay County Sheriff’s Office
  16. Mounds View Police Department


Hank Long

Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.