Minnesota's Attorney General shares additional legal clarification after SRO concerns persist

Photo by: WDAY Radio File (Canva)
Photo by: WDAY Radio File (Canva)

(St. Paul, MN) -- Minnesota's Attorney General is clarifying an amended law that has caused several police departments to remove SRO's from schools across the state due to legal concerns.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison says the law change does not limit the types of reasonable force that can be used by police. He says since the standard for reasonable force has not been changed in the amended law, officers can still use restraints when necessary. Additionally, Ellison says SRO's and school officials are still able to physically engage with non-violent behaviors, and that authorities can act before someone is already injured.

Ellison says the original statement, released in mid-August, clarifies that restraints used by SRO's are not limited in instances that would prevent bodily harm or death, but the force must be "reasonable". In instances where bodily harm or death is not in consideration, certain physical holds that impact the child's ability to breathe and prone restraints. Moorhead Police say they did not suspend their services due to the changes to the kinds of holds that can be used on students, but instead due to concerns regarding potential legal implications from the holds themselves.

“My top concern continues to be that students and school staff be safe in schools and that law-enforcement officers can effectively play their part in keeping them safe,” Attorney General Ellison said in a statement. “My original legal opinion last month addressed only the question of whether the recent amendments to school-discipline laws allow the use of prone restraints and other techniques in cases of imminent physical harm to self or others. Since then, I have been in conversation with a variety of stakeholders, including law enforcement, who have raised more questions in good faith. I have also seen misunderstandings of the original opinion and the law. I am issuing this supplemental legal opinion, which is consistent with the conclusions of the original opinion, in an effort to address those good-faith concerns and clarify those misunderstandings.” 

Moorhead Police Chief Shannon Monroe says their legal council is looking at the newest opinion issued by Ellison. The department previously said the language would stop SRO's from being able to "control" a student, stopping them from being able to physically interact with students, like grabbing their arm or "bear hugging" them for restraining purposes.