DFL legislators introduce bill to clarify, enhance School Resource Officer law

ST. PAUL, Minn — On Feb. 6, DFLers in the Minnesota House and Senate announced comprehensive legislation to provide a uniform system across the state for districts that decide to have a School Resource Officer (SRO) program. The bill will provide the clarity law enforcement agencies and school districts sought last fall regarding the use-of-force standard. 

“Safe schools are the foundation for a well-educated society,” said Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL – New Hope), lead author of the bill in the House. “This bill brings together educators, law enforcement, and advocates to strike a balance between safety and rights, ensuring every child has access to a world-class education in a secure and supportive environment.” 

“We crafted this legislation to build on the important work we did in the 2023 session,” said Sen. Bonnie Westlin (DFL – Plymouth), lead author of the bill in the Senate. “With the Attorney General’s expertise and guidance from numerous stakeholders, we’ve created a bill that will codify a comprehensive understanding of the role that school resource officers play in supporting our kids as they learn.”

Following the murder of George Floyd — highlighting for the world the dangers of face-down prone restraints — the use of chokeholds was banned for law enforcement. In 2023, the Legislature updated guidelines for the use of force in schools, working to ensure school discipline practices reflect our shared commitment to ensuring schools are safe, healthy, nurturing environments. Despite clear legal guidance the Minnesota Attorney General issued on this matter, lawmakers continued to listen to law enforcement and school districts and went to work on crafting solutions to address their concerns.

The bill clarifies the law regarding the use of force in schools and retains the limitation on the use of chokeholds that applies to all peace officers in Minnesota Statute 609.06. It creates a statutory definition for School Resource Officers and requires a statewide standard of the basic training required for SROs. To minimize harmful, disparate engagements between SROs and students, the legislation also expressly prohibits SROs from being used to deliver discipline for violation of school policies.

Significantly, the bill creates a Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) Board model policy, codifying minimum standards that must exist if districts choose to contract with SROs. The policy will have minimum standards for proper use of force, response tactics to minimize the use of prone restraints and other physical holds, the duty to render care, alternative procedures to de-escalate conflict, and considerations to build constructive police relationships with students, administrators, and educational staff. The bill requires the POST Board to develop the model policy with impacted Minnesotans including law enforcement, education experts, local units of government, community advocates, and organizations representing youth.

“We spent the past several months incorporating stakeholder feedback to craft a bill that provides clarity to law enforcement while guaranteeing the safety of our students,” said Rep. Kelly Moller (DFL – Shoreview), chair of the House Public Safety Committee. “I look forward to continued work on the legislation and conversations with our law enforcement partners and other stakeholders.”The bill is scheduled to receive a public hearing in the House Education Policy Committee on Monday, February 12 at 4 p.m. More information is available on the committee webpage.

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Senator Bonnie Westlin represents Senate District 42 which includes Maple Grove, Medicine Lake, and Plymouth. She is vice chair of the Elections Committee and serves on the Education Finance Committee and the Judiciary and Public Safety Committee.

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