State GOP lawmakers hold listening session on law affecting SROs

State GOP lawmakers hold listening session on law affecting SROs

State GOP lawmakers hold listening session on law affecting SROs

GOP lawmakers, law enforcement agencies, teachers and school officials came together Wednesday with a mission to get school resource officers back into schools.

RELATED: LIST: Law enforcement agencies that are removing SROs vs keeping them in schools

GOP lawmakers said the session is in response to DFL leaders ignoring “repeated requests from House and Senate GOP committee leads for informational hearings to be held on the topic.”

Several police departments across the state have pulled their officers from school districts over what they say are unclear guidelines over what restraints and other forms of “reasonable force” are permitted under the law.

Contradicting legal opinions shared by Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty did not fully clarify the issue, but some police departments returned to local schools since then.

Those departments include Moodhead, Eagan, Apple Valley, White Bear Lake, Hutchinson, Brainard and Mankato.

Doug Hazen, director of the Riverbend Education District in South Central Minnesota, gave an example of how the new SRO law impedes officers from physically intervening. He says students who are acting erratically by destroying classrooms, but are not causing bodily harm, don’t meet the threshold of reasonable force.

“My staff is on a daily basis, having their classrooms completely destroyed by students,” he said. “We have police officers in town going, ‘Not our area, we don’t get involved.'”

“I can’t imagine being a teacher when things get a little riled up. And there’s not an SRO to calm that situation down,” added Lori McDevitt, a retired elementary school teacher.

The legislature is expected to revisit the law in the next session, but leaders from the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA) say an “urgent legislative fix” is needed and cannot wait.

As previously reported by 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, some lawmakers have called for a special session to be held on the issue. DFL lawmakers said they are committed to holding public hearings on SROs within the first few weeks of the new legislative session, but Republicans are asking Gov. Tim Walz to call a special session.

Over 40 DFL lawmakers have signed a letter opposing a special session.

The DFL released the following response on Wednesday:

“In recent weeks, we’ve been listening to parents, teachers, students, school leaders, and law enforcement. We take concerns about School Resource Officers (SROs) seriously and we have been working together to provide clarification. 

“On September 20, the Attorney General issued a binding legal opinion that provides law enforcement with the level of clarity they have been seeking. 

“Today, we are announcing a commitment to hold public hearings about SROs in the House and the Senate within the first two weeks of the 2024 legislative session. After discussions with law enforcement organization leaders, we all believe these latest developments will help to return SROs to schools as soon as possible.

“The health and welfare of everyone in the schools will be at the heart of the discussions moving forward. Our top priority is for students to learn and thrive in Minnesota schools, and to be able to do that, students, staff, and teachers must have a safe environment.”

Related coverage of Minnesota SROs can be found below:

Minnesota Republicans call for special session to repeal change in school resource officer law | Law enforcement again call for special session on SRO law

Law enforcement association responds to AG Ellison’s latest legal opinion on use of force allowed under SRO law

AG Ellison again updates legal opinion on use of force allowed under SRO law

Worries over licenses create new guidance on SROs

AG Ellison says Hennepin County SRO opinion ‘not helpful’

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

Police groups anticipate clarity on SRO law during legislative session