Republican lawmakers demand special session to address new SRO law

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(ABC 6 News) – Republican lawmakers in Minnesota are calling for a special legislative session to reverse a recently passed law concerning school resource officers.

The new law affects how police officers in schools interact with students, primarily through the use of prone holds.

DFL lawmakers argue the ban protects students, but Republicans say it impacts the safety of other students and faculty.

The new law has SROs questioning what they can and cannot do on school grounds, and the change is already making an impact across the state of Minnesota.

Last week, an SRO in Albert Lea was in a situation where he was dealing with an uncooperative student and the language of the law forced him to do something different.

“Normally that individual would be escorted down to the office and dealt with appropriately, but rather than risk going hands-on with an escort and then potentially things escalate and put that officer in a circumstance that would violate this current statute he had to call for additional officers,” public safety director of the Albert Lea Police Department J.D. Carlson said.

The crux of the issue comes when the law prohibits SROs from using prone restraints, meaning they aren’t allowed to restrain a student where their head is on the ground.

“We don’t use those techniques in the schools anyways, our cops are in there to build relationships and what we find is when you have a relationship with students they don’t need to be pinned down to the ground,” Rochester Police Department Captain Jeff Stilwell said.

While some districts might not have to use prone restraints on students, others said it’s something they should be allowed to do if necessary.

“While it is still very uncommon, it’s still a tool in the toolbox our SROs need,” Minnesota House representative Patricia Mueller said.

Attorney General Keith Ellison recently clarified the law and said prone holds are acceptable if someone’s life is in danger.

Officers still believe the law is still unclear and some were even blindsided by the change.

“The stakeholders who were affected weren’t necessarily involved,” Austin Police Chief David McKichan said.

The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association joined Republican lawmakers in demanding a special legislative session.

DFL lawmaker Liz Boldon helped author the bill and said the goal is safety and that prone restraints aren’t safe.

While prone restraints are not allowed, the law requires schools to provide follow-up to altercations.

“Schools annually will have to report when restraints are used so we can know what’s happening and how often it’s used,” Minnesota Senator Liz Boldon said.

Now with the school year in full swing, decisions will need to be made or SROs are going to have to learn to live by the new law.

Now it’ll be up to Governor Walz if he wants to call a special session to discuss the SRO law further.

The DFL holds a majority in both the House and Senate so it’s unclear what will happen next.

For now, school districts and SROs have to be mindful of the law.