Aug 29, 2023 - Education

Some Minnesota school police partnerships paused amid questions about restraint law

Illustration of a series of successively larger police badges being drawn on a chalkboard.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Concerns over a new state law related to student restraints is prompting some law enforcement agencies and districts to rethink β€” and in some cases pause β€” partnerships that put police officers in school.

Driving the news: School resource officer programs in Andover, Moorhead and Rockford were recently put on hold as law enforcement partners pulled out in response to the change.

  • Others, including Burnsville-Eagan-Savage School District, are still meeting on the matter, per the Star Tribune.

Context: The new language, passed as part of a broader education bill, seeks to ban school employees and agents from holding students face down in a "prone" position or via a "comprehensive restraint on the head, neck, and across most of the torso."

Yes, but: Law enforcement groups say the language could limit school resource officers' ability to respond to dangerous or criminal conduct β€” or lead to lawsuits against those who do intervene.

What they're saying: "If they're acting as an agent of a school, the new legislative changes puts them in a position where in all practicality they have to remain hands-free," Jeff Potts, executive director of the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association, told the Star Tribune.

The other side: Attorney General Keith Ellison issued a legal opinion last week saying the new language does not limit the use of force to prevent injury or death, as long as that force is "reasonable."

  • Gov. Tim Walz recently told reporters that his staff reviewed the change and that there are "exceptions for (the) health and safety of students and the officers."
  • "I certainly think we should agree that we should not be on the necks of students unless someone's life is at risk."

Of note: Some of the state's biggest school districts, including Minneapolis and St. Paul, had already cut their formal school resource officer programs.

  • Meanwhile in Bloomington, officials will follow through with adding officers to two middle schools, but plan to call for outside support when force could be needed, per the Strib.

What we're watching: Law enforcement groups, along with GOP legislators, have called on the Legislature to pass language clarifying the law.

  • Without a special session, the earliest that could happen is next February.

Editor's note: This story was updated to include the Hennepin Sheriff's decision to end a partnership with Rockford High School.


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