Mar 4, 2024 - News

Minnesota House to vote on school resource officer restraint rules

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

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

A "fix" to a controversial new law prohibiting school resource officers from using prone restraints is expected to pass the state House today.

Why it matters: Concerns over the ban prompted law enforcement agencies to pull officers from dozens of schools last fall.

Catch up fast: The original law, approved last spring as part of a broader education spending measure, sought to prohibit SROs and other school employees from using potentially harmful holds on kids.

  • But law enforcement groups said the way it was written could open them up to liability even in situations where a restraint was necessary to protect people or school property.

Zoom in: The new language exempts SROs from the new prone restraint ban for other school staff.

Yes, but: Even with the change, SROs must still follow existing state standards that limit use-of-force to situations that pose a risk of great bodily harm. They're also subject to the broader ban on chokeholds.

The fine print: The revised bill, which has the support of leading law enforcement groups, also clarifies their duties and directs the Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training to come up with a new training program and a model school resource officer policy.

Flashback: Confusion — and conflicting legal opinions — led Republicans and law enforcement groups to call for a special session last fall to clarify the language.

  • That didn't happen. Instead, the bill, which DFL leaders pledged to fast-track this year, came together over months of negotiations between lawmakers, school leaders, and police chiefs.

What they're saying: "It is a bill that law enforcement, members of the community, cities, and education professionals worked very hard on," House Speaker Melissa Hortman (DFL-Brooklyn Park) told reporters last week. "And it's time to get it in the rearview mirror and get the SROs back where they want to be."

The other side: Critics of the bill argue that the changes roll back protections for students.

  • "How is it that — in the state where [George Floyd] gets killed and the world erupted — that we are not the leading people who are banning this on our kids?" Khulia Pringle, Minnesota director of the National Parents Union and member of the Solutions Not Suspensions Coalition, told The 74.

State of play: DFL and GOP leaders expect the bill to pass the House with bipartisan support, though it's unclear if it will be unanimous.

  • The legislation needs to also pass the Senate before Gov. Tim Walz can sign it into law. A vote there could happen in the coming weeks.

What we're watching: Whether — and how soon — SROs return to schools they left last fall.


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