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Minnesota Attorney General clarifies SRO use-of-force guidelines

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison speaks at a community engagement session. (Elijah Todd-Walden/Center for Broadcast Journalism).

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison issued a clarification Wednesday afternoon on a controversial law restricting use of force on students.

The opinion comes after 40 law enforcement agencies pulled their school resource officers (SROs) from Minnesota schools.

Many of the agencies that pulled their SRO’s said they worried about liability, and were concerned about what constituted a reasonable amount of force. The opinion by Ellison states that the law does not change what a reasonable amount of force is. He further acknowledged other questions raised by law enforcement agencies, stating those concerns should be clarified by the Minnesota Legislature.

The new law bans the use of dangerous restraints on students, stating that an employee “shall not restrict or impair a pupil’s ability to breathe, restrict or impair a pupil’s ability to communicate distress; place pressure or weight on a pupil’s head, throat, neck, chest, lungs, sternum, diaphragm, back or abdomen.”

“There have been significant misunderstandings about the impact of the new amendments. For example, some have interpreted the amendments as restricting SRO’s and school professionals from engaging in any kind of physical contact to address non-violent behavior. That is not the case,” Ellison wrote. “Professionals must simply avoid the restraints identified in [the new state guidelines].”

Minnesota Republicans called for a special legislative session to address the concerns over the law. Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz disagreed saying while he believes clarification on the law is valuable, a special session is unnecessary.

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