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After dozens of departments pull school resource officers, Minnesota attorney general makes more clarifications to new law

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz to meet with law enforcement leaders to discuss school resource officer law
Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz to meet with law enforcement leaders to discuss school resource officer law 01:43

MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has made more clarifications about the recent amendments to a state law that have caused several law enforcement agencies across the state to pull resource officers from schools.

The supplemental legal opinion Ellison's office released Wednesday makes clear that school resource officers (SROs) and school staff members are allowed to use force on students "to prevent bodily harm or death," but the force must be "reasonable."

Ellison says the new law has not changed the legal standard of reasonable force, as laid out in Minnesota Statutes section 609.06, subdivision 1(1), which must be "proportional to the threat." 

RELATED: What is the exact language of the new law concerning school resource officer conduct?

He also clarified the "significant misunderstandings" about the amendments, namely that many believe SROs and school staff members can't engage in "any physical contact to address non-violent behavior." Ellison says only these physical holds are now forbidden:

* Prone restraints
* Any holds that would restrict a student's ability to breathe and voice distress
* Holds that put pressure on a student's abdomen, back, chest, diaphragm, head, lungs, throat, and sternum. 
* Holds that result in straddling a student's torso

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison WCCO

"If a student is misbehaving in a way that does not and will not harm that student or anyone else, professionals in schools still have many tools at their disposal, including other kinds of physical contact," Ellison said.

RELATED: The 10 largest Twin Cities school districts' plans for school resource officers

Ellison also cleared up the misunderstanding that SROs and staff members can't make physical contact with a student or use reasonable force until someone has already been injured.

"The law says school employees and agents 'may use reasonable force when it is necessary under the circumstances to restrain a student to prevent bodily harm or death to the student or to another…' The Legislature's use of the word 'prevent' means that when a professional determines a student is about to harm themselves or another, the professional may intervene," he said.  

About 40 school districts across Minnesota are now without school resource officers.  

DFL Gov. Tim Walz has recently stated that he's open to a special legislative session to possibly change language in the amendments, and says he plans to meet soon with members of law enforcement to discuss the matter.

NOTE: The video above is from Sept. 19, 2023.

RELATED: Brooklyn Park police pull school resource officers after fight inside Park Center Senior High School

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