Was a compromise reached on use of restraint in Minnesota schools?

As February ended, it appeared that middle ground had been reached on the controversial issue of school resource officers and […]

Young man in handcuffs.

As February ended, it appeared that middle ground had been reached on the controversial issue of school resource officers and how they can use physical restraint on students. 

On the table are proposed changes to part of the 2023 education package. The sections in question limit the extent to which officers can restrain students. Officers cannot use prone restraint, and using any kind of hold that inhibits a student’s ability to breathe or communicate distress. The exemption is to prevent bodily harm or death. 

After the bill was signed into law last year, some police and sheriff’s departments began pulling their officers out of schools. The contention was that the law wasn’t clear. 

Legislation was brought forward early in the 2024 session, but it again generated controversy for not being a solution. 

Use of restraint has long been an issue in schools, especially when it involves students with disabilities. Prone restraint use against special education students has been outlawed for about a decade. 

There was a strong push in recent years to expand that type of protection to all students. There has also been renewed attention to the dangers restraints can create. 
The 2023 law also requires school districts to report incidents in which physical holds are used on students. Reporting of incidents starts in July 2024. 

How the 2023 law is interpreted generated months of controversy. Some called for a special legislative session last year. 

What’s now proposed is a bill that would exempt school resource officers from the ban on prone restraint. Training would be required starting in 2025. Educators, law enforcement and the Minnesota Board of Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST Board) would work together on a model policy for schools. The intent of the policy would be to minimize use of prone restraint. 

Different ideas have been on the table, including a series of trainings for school resource officers. One training session proposed would be on youth rain development. There would also be a focus on working with students with disabilities. 

The bill has been to the House Public Safety Finance and Policy and Ways and Means committees, and the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety and Education Policy committees. It has had several amendments. 

Getting changes started in the committee process hasn’t been easy. Law enforcement advocates worry about limits on what officers can do. Parents and advocates argue that students have been harmed. The parents included Sen. Judy Seeberger (DFL-Afton) whose own special needs child was injured by  a school officer. She said officers could benefit from training. 

“To suggest we’re creating issues where they don’t exist is offensive to me and my family,” she said. 

The bill numbers are HF3489/SF3534. Go to Minnesota State Legislation to track these and other bills.

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