ST. PAUL – Republican legislators invited school staff, law enforcement and others to the Capitol for a meeting Wednesday as they seek solutions to fix a law that has left dozens of Minnesota schools without school resource officers.
House Republican Leader Rep. Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, said the issue centers on a change in state law Democrats enacted last spring which limits how SROs and others are allowed to de-escalate aggressive or violent situations, taking away tools they can use to keep students and teachers safe.
Concern and confusion ensued with the start of the new school year, causing dozens of law enforcement agencies to pull SROs from schools across Minnesota. Some other schools have continued using SROs or had their service restored after state Attorney General Keith Ellison issued a supportive interpretation of the law. Since then, contradictory opinions of the statute, including from Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty, have muddled matters.
Demuth said this lack of statewide consistency, clarity and consensus underscores the importance of a legislative fix, which is why Republicans conducted the public hearings to seek solutions.
“This is an issue with ongoing concerns that will not be resolved until we provide added clarification by fixing this law, preferably in a special session this fall” Demuth said. “So far, the House majority has not even committed to correcting this problem through legislative action in the regular 2024 session, much less in the coming weeks. Republicans continue advocating for a timely remedy and invited people impacted by this issue to share their input during the meeting at the Capitol. I appreciate the insights that were provided and will continue working for a bipartisan solution.”
Demuth said testimony provided during the meeting painted a problematic picture of how the new law is compromising safety in schools. An official from the Riverbend Education District in South Central Minnesota said, “My staff is, on a daily basis, having their classrooms completely destroyed by students. We have police officers in town going, ‘Not our area, we don’t get involved.'” A retired teacher indicated, “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.”
“One thing to keep in mind is reports show 90 percent of students agree it’s a good idea having an SRO at their school, yet this new law has caused SROs to be removed from dozens of buildings in our state,” Demuth said. “It’s hard to find 90 percent of people to agree to almost anything these days, yet, in this case, a new Democrat law has resulted in the removal of SROs that 90 percent of students want.
“Furthermore, while SROs are at the forefront on this issue, this change in law also limits how teachers, staff and other agents contracted by a school district may diffuse a volatile situation. House Republicans are calling on Democrats to stop putting politics above school safety and join our efforts to fix this without further delay.”