It is very concerning that a recent change in state law could compromise safety in Minnesota schools. This is the last thing people should have to think about as classrooms open for the new year.
For background, new state law enacted by Democrats earlier this year imposes prohibitions on the use of force in schools, banning certain physical holds by “an employee or agent of a district, including a school resource officer, security personnel, or police officer contracted with a district."
This effectively limits the tools a school resource officer has available to de-escalate a potentially dangerous situation, ultimately undermining our ability to provide a safe learning environment for all students and staff throughout our state. As a result, a number of law enforcement agencies are pulling SROs from schools that previously had been staffed.
Concerns about this legislation were raised as far back as last February, but legislative Democrats proceeded to pass this ill-conceived policy into law anyway.
I have remained in contact with law enforcement and school officials throughout our area and beyond to understand the full range of impacts. I conducted a press conference this week to publicly address this issue and signed a letter to the governor asking for a special session so we can fix this problem. It reads, in part:
"School resource officers have a valued position in schools across the state. They are relied upon to both respond to direct challenges in schools as well as work within the schools to prevent problems. It is an unfortunate reality that there are times within the school day SROs are called upon to restrain students from causing harm to themselves, the school, or others in the building. We have all heard the concerns from SROs that they need legislative action to know they can do their job as they have been trained. Students and teachers are less safe than they were a year ago as a direct result of the loss of school resource officers.
Senate and House Republicans are ready to help address this urgent problem and ensure all members of our schools can have safe environments that promote learning and community. Let's show Minnesotans we can come together to correct this mistake, and return these law enforcement professionals to their posts as soon as possible."
The governor is the only one in our state with the power to call a special session. Unfortunately, he has not indicated he will do so. I encourage people to reach out to his office, underscore the urgency of this matter and call for a special session. This link provides contact information for reaching the governor.
Our children, teachers and school staff deserve a safe, welcoming environment. Public safety is the state's top responsibility to its residents, after all. Let's do the right thing and correct this issue now in a special session.
Until next time, your input always is welcome.