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DFL leadership shuts down special session talk, will revisit police in schools issue next year


DFL leadership shuts down special session talk, will revisit police in schools issue next year

Sep 22, 2023 | 11:19 am ET
By Michelle Griffith
DFL leadership shuts down special session talk, will revisit police in schools issue next year
Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic, right, and House Speaker Melissa Hortman sent out a statement saying lawmakers will revisit the issue next year. Photo by Michelle Griffith/Minnesota Reformer.

DFL legislative leadership on Thursday said it’s committed to holding hearings about school resource officers and a ban on prone restraints in Minnesota schools when the 2024 legislative session starts in February — effectively shutting down further discussion of a special legislative session regarding the law this year.

House Speaker Melissa Hortman, DFL-Brooklyn Park, and Senate Majority Leader Kari Dziedzic, DFL-Minneapolis, said that after speaking with school districts, law enforcement and the release of an opinion from the state attorney general, they believe there is enough clarity for school resource officers to return to their jobs.

Hortman and Dziedzic said the Legislature would hold public hearings about the issue within the first few weeks of the 2024 session.

“After discussions with law enforcement organization leaders, we all believe these latest developments will help to return SROs to schools as soon as possible,” they said in a statement.

Attorney General Keith Ellison issued a supplemental opinion on Wednesday, attempting to clarify confusion over the prone restraint ban that prompted law enforcement agencies to pull officers from about 40 districts.

The new law says district employees, including school resource officers, can’t use prone restraints on students, meaning placing them in a face down position. They also cannot use any kind of hold that inhibits a student’s ability to breathe or voice distress. 

But they may use these kinds of holds on students to prevent bodily harm or death.

Corrections officers face similar rules, enacted in 2021, with the support of the majority of Senate Republicans at the time. 

Some law enforcement agencies have interpreted the new school law to mean that they cannot use any kind of physical intervention at all, however. 

For example, if a student is throwing desks in an empty classroom, some law enforcement groups say under the law they wouldn’t be able to intervene. They argued they would only be able to monitor the student and could only check in until it looks like they’re going to hurt themselves.

Officers say they want to intervene before that, and Ellison in his opinion said that they can. 

“If a student is misbehaving in a way that does not and will not harm that student or anyone else, professionals in schools still have many tools at their disposal, including other kinds of physical contact,” the attorney general’s office said in a release.

Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, said in a statement Thursday that a commitment to hold hearings isn’t good enough.

“Hearings don’t change the law, which everyone … agrees needs legislative work,” Johnson said. “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.” 

Republicans and law enforcement groups for nearly a month have been attacking the Democratic majority and urging Gov. Tim Walz to order a special session.