Proponents of new law affecting SROs defend ban on restraints, oppose special session

Supporters of SRO law speak out

Supporters of SRO law speak out

A group who says they’re in favor of a law that passed in the Minnesota Legislature that limits the number of restraints that can be used by school resource officers is expected to speak Thursday afternoon.

The group, called Solutions Not Suspension Coalition, is made up of students, parents, community leaders and others. They say the law prioritizes de-escalation techniques and prohibits certain restraints and holds.

The new law prohibits SROs from “placing a student in a face-down position” and bans certain holds on the head, neck and across most of the torso.

Several law enforcement agencies have decided to pull school resource officers from schools, saying that a new law lacks clarity and would prevent them from doing their job. However, there are some agencies that have chosen to stay in schools while clarity is found, saying safety is the top priority for students.

RELATED: SROs to remain in Bloomington Public Schools

Republicans in the state legislature have asked Gov. Tim Walz to call for a special session in order to address the law. While he hasn’t called one, Walz has said he hasn’t ruled it out.

“Just to be clear, this is not a conversation about whether or not we should have police officers in schools, great minds can disagree about that all day long. This is a conversation about whether police officers and other adults can put their hands on our children, sometimes in dangerous ways, when a child is not posing a threat to self or others,” Josh Crosson, with the nonprofit EdAllies, said Thursday.

The coalition members touted other methods of de-escalation that don’t require restraints and said adults shouldn’t be criminalizing or putting hands on children unless there is a threat to safety. Additionally, given that the law already includes an exception for reasonable force in a dangerous situation, the coalition labeled the calls for a special session as simply a way to repeal efforts to keep students safe.

“We should use our resources, which include police officers, but never should we ask police to respond to behaviors that should be addressed by the people who know the children the best. And if students are not presenting a risk or harm to others or themselves, there’s no reason to be put in restraint,” Bernadeia Johnson, a faculty member of Minnesota State Mankato and a former superintendent of Minneapolis Public Schools, said.

House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth issued the following statement Thursday:

“With dozens of school districts currently without SRO coverage across Minnesota, it’s incredibly urgent that we fix this problem, get SROs back in schools, and keep our students safe. It’s disappointing to see so many Democrats opposed to a special session and continuing their irresponsible anti-law enforcement rhetoric.

“Governor Walz said himself that a special session would be ‘smart’ and that ‘to get this clarified makes sense.’ If the Governor is truly serious about solving this problem and making sure our schools are safe, it’s time to bring Republicans to the table. A bipartisan fix is the only way forward, and House Republicans are ready and waiting to get this fixed and make sure SROs can return to their posts as soon as possible.”

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