Minnesota House passes fix to SRO law, sending bill to Senate

Minnesota House passes fix to SRO law, sending bill to Senate

Minnesota House passes fix to SRO law, sending bill to Senate

The Minnesota House of Representatives passed changes to the state’s updated school resource law on Monday, sending the bill to the Senate for consideration.

More than six months after controversy over the new law started, the issue remains one of the key topics at the Minnesota Legislature.

A DFL-authored bill moved through Minnesota House of Representatives committees and passed a floor vote Monday afternoon, with all but eight lawmakers voting in favor.

Several GOP lawmakers have also introduced their version of a fix for the SRO law, although it hasn’t advanced anywhere in the DFL-controlled Legislature.

The main difference between the DFL and GOP bills is the DFL bill would require law enforcement agencies with an SRO program to have a written SRO policy. The GOP bill doesn’t include that requirement but features an SRO training reimbursement for agencies.

The controversy over the changes made by lawmakers last year stems from some law enforcement officials’ concerns that SROs are no longer able to use certain physical restraints on students and could be held liable for either doing too much or too little in certain situations. The bills to clarify the law would again allow SROs to restrain students but keep it illegal for school employees to do so.

“We needed to get a fix, we need to get our school resource officers back into schools,” Rep. Jeff Witte (R-Lakeville), a former SRO himself, said Monday. “I’m thankful all along that I’ve had my hand extended out to the governor, to the Democrat representatives, asking to help with a bipartisan fix. We all want our schools to be safe.”

“We have taken decisive action, to update guidelines for the use of force, ensuring our disciplinary practice aligns with our shared commitment to create a safe and healthy and nurturing environment for all students,” Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL-New Hope) added.

While several law enforcement agencies suspended their SRO programs last fall amid questions over the updated law, several others have continued their partnerships with schools. No known issues have arisen since the change in the law.

Some groups have also defended the current law and opposed a fix to clarify the law, saying SROs shouldn’t be able to restrain students unless there’s a threat of imminent danger.

The bill still has to make its way through the Senate before it can become law. However, the legislation is written so that any clarifications will take effect the day after it’s signed into law.

Three Minnesota law enforcement organizations — the Minnesota Sheriffs’ Association, Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, and the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association — sent a letter last week to state lawmakers in support of the DFL-authored bill and asking for it to move “as expeditiously as possible so that our SROs can return to their duties of keeping our schools safe.” The organizations also asked state lawmakers to let them provide feedback sooner on any future SRO-related legislation to avoid any controversies like this.