Lawmakers to kick off legislative session with bill seeking to clarify SRO law

The debate on school resource officers will begin again when the Minnesota Legislature convenes for a new session next week.

DFL lawmakers announced Tuesday they will introduce a bill to clarify a law passed last session that prohibited school resource officers from using certain types of force on students.

The original law sought to avoid face-down restraints like the one that George Floyd was placed in when he was murdered by a former Minneapolis police officer during a 2020 arrest. But as school districts prepared to welcome students back to class last summer, some law enforcement groups flagged murky language in the law that could be interpreted to mean school resource officers couldn’t physically engage with erratic or unruly students until the moment someone gets hurt.

Ongoing confusion — even after Attorney General Keith Ellison issued two legal opinions seeking to clarify the law — led many agencies to suspend their school resource officer programs.

Republican lawmakers and law enforcement advocates wanted Gov. Tim Walz to address the issue with a special session, but he opted to wait until the 2024 legislative session to sort out the matter.

Now, DFL lawmakers want to define what a school resource officer is and standardize training for the role statewide.

The new bill would also create a model SRO policy for the Minnesota Peace Officer Standards and Training Board, which includes minimum standards for using force and response tactics to avoid certain types of holds, among other considerations. The POST Board would develop the model policy with several stakeholders, such as law enforcement, education experts, local governments and community and youth advocates.

“Safe schools are the foundation for a well-educated society,” said Rep. Cedrick Frazier(DFL-New Hope), one of the bill’s lead authors. “This bill brings together educators, law enforcement, and advocates to strike a balance between safety and rights, ensuring every child has access to a world-class education in a secure and supportive environment.”

The bill is scheduled to receive its first hearing Monday afternoon in the House Education Policy Committee.