Senate approves SRO law clarifications

Legislation to clarify the role of school resource officers (SRO) in Minnesota schools is one step closer to heading to the governor’s desk.

The Minnesota Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill to modify the use of reasonable force by SROs on Monday, a week after the House of Representatives approved the legislation.

However, before it heads to Gov. Tim Walz, it has to go back to the House to either accept a change made in the Senate or hammer out the differences in a conference committee. Once signed, it will take effect the day after he signs it into law.

The approved Senate amendment would allow school staff more abilities to intervene in certain situations to protect property from being damaged or stolen.

The development comes seven months after the SRO controversy first arose just before the start of a new school year. Some law enforcement officials then expressed concerns that changes made by state lawmakers last year to ban certain physical restraints on students wouldn’t allow SROs to do their jobs but would keep them liable for failing to intervene. That led some agencies to suspend their SRO programs, although many others continued their programs.

The clarifications will again allow more latitude for SROs while still prohibiting any school employees from placing students in the “prone” restraint. It will also require law enforcement agencies with an SRO program to have a written SRO policy and for SROs to undergo training.

Republicans have said the DFL is moving too slowly to pass the SRO updates and urged Walz to call a special session last fall, which the governor declined to do. Some law enforcement agencies have also urged lawmakers to move more quickly to approve the bill and asked to be included in any future updates to the SRO bill.

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

Follow other legislation at the Capitol with KSTP’s Legislative Tracker.

Editor’s note: An initial version of this story erroneously said the bill is headed to Gov. Tim Walz after its approval by the Senate. The House has to first accept the amended language or send it to a conference committee before it can go to the governor.