Gov. Walz open to special session addressing SRO concerns | #schoolsaftey

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. — As Minnesota law enforcement agencies continue to pull officers from school resource officer (SRO) positions in the wake of recent changes to Minnesota law, Governor Tim Walz says he hasn’t ruled out using a special legislative session to address the issue.

While celebrating the first day of school at Oak Grove Elementary in Bloomington Tuesday morning, Walz was asked if he thinks a special session is needed to clarify questions around new school safety laws.

“I think what we’re trying to figure out, is there a solution that works best to make sure we have trusted adults in the buildings, where the districts want them to be, and that it satisfies everyone’s need,” Walz said. “I think at this point in time we don’t know exactly what that’s going to look like, but I’m certainly open to anything that provides a solution to that. And if that’s the legislature working it out, to make sure we have it.”

A provision in the Omnibus Education Bill signed by Gov. Walz in May bars school-based officers from placing students in the prone position or physical holds that subject them to “comprehensive restraint on the head, neck and across most of the torso.” 

Multiple law enforcement organizations and departments have expressed concern that the amendments limit the ability of officers to do their jobs, undermine their authority to respond to situations involving student safety and could make officers liable for criminal charges or lawsuits.

Walz reiterated several times Tuesday that he’s hopeful another solution will present itself that doesn’t require bringing lawmakers back to the State Capitol. “The spirit of this thing is, all of us want our buildings safe, and all of us want to make sure excessive force isn’t used on our students,” Walz added. “And I think finding that middle ground shouldn’t be all that difficult.”

He also alluded to several districts that managed to keep their SROs in place without a special session, among those being Bloomington, Chaska and Minnetonka.

Last week, Republican lawmakers urged Walz to reconvene the legislature to undo the new ban on using physical restraints in schools.

Sen. Zack Duckworth, a Lakeville Republican, already had a one-page bill drafted that would repeal that section of the law. He said it’s too critical to wait until the next regular session begins in February.

“I’m joining others in calling on the governor to bring Republicans and Democrats together for a special session before school starts, so we can fix this issue, keep our SROs and ensure our kids are safe,” Sen. Duckworth told reporters.

In a legal opinion clarifying his interpretation of the school discipline laws, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison said the amendments don’t limit the types of force used if they are utilized to prevent bodily harm or death. However, if a physical hold is used, it must be considered “reasonable” and shouldn’t be used if there’s no threat of bodily harm or death.

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