AG Ellison: School resource officers can use restraints to prevent others from harm

Minnesota’s top legal officer issued a clarification Tuesday on a new state law that limits school resource officers from using certain restraints.

At issue was an amendment to the law governing school discipline that “prohibits the use of prone restraints and the use of compression restraints on the head, back and across most of the torso,” according to the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association.

The law drew criticism from some law enforcement groups, which argued restraints are sometimes necessary to keep students and staff members safe from people acting erratic or violent.

Members of the Chiefs of Police Association confirmed with 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS they met with Attorney General Keith Ellison on Monday to voice their concerns.

In a legal opinion, Ellison said the use of “reasonable force” is still allowed by school employees and law enforcement to “prevent bodily harm or death.” The new law does not change the definition of “reasonable force,” Ellison wrote.

“Safety is essential for learning, and everyone in our schools — students, teachers, staff, administrators, SROs, and families — wants to be safe and feel safe,” Ellison said in a statement. “The aims of the new amendments to our school-discipline laws are worthy. I issued this opinion upon [Education Commissioner Willie] Jett’s request because it is important to provide clarity about the amendments’ scope.”

When asked for comment, the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association referred back to its initial concerns with the law.

In a statement Wednesday, the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association said that Ellison’s legal opinion resolves some of the issues with the new law, but doesn’t address many scenarios that school resource officers may encounter, such as what is acceptable from school resource officers in situations that don’t pose a threat of bodily harm or death.

“Our number one priority continues to be keeping students and staff members inside schools across our state safe,” Executive Director Jeff Potts said. “Although we are grateful for the Attorney General’s expertise and thoughtful opinion, we still aren’t confident that can be accomplished with the new law.”

Before Ellison issued a clarification, some police chiefs had raised the possibility they wouldn’t send officers from their departments to serve as school resource officers, citing concerns about legal repercussions.

The full statement from the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association can be found below: