(The Center Square) – Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison issued a supplemented legal opinion regarding school discipline laws after dozens of police departments pulled school resource officers.
Ellison said the new opinion addresses “good-faith” concerns about the law.
The opinion clarifies SROs and school employees don’t have to wait to intervene until someone is already hurt because 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…”
Ellison said the new law allows SROs to engage in physical contact to carry out lawful duties.
“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,” Ellison said in a statement.
Ellison said employees can use “reasonable force”, a legal standard that a response be proportional to the threat based on the totality of the circumstances.
Ellison said the new law bans employees from using a prone restraint unless the student poses an “imminent threat.” The law also says employees “shall not inflict any form of physical holding that restricts or impairs a pupil’s ability to breathe; restricts or impairs a pupil’s ability to communicate distress; places pressure or weight on a pupil’s head, throat, neck, chest, lungs, sternum, diaphragm, back, or abdomen; or results in straddling a pupil’s torso.”
Ellison issued an opinion in August, requested by Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Willie Jett, clarifying the amendments don’t limit the types of force that may be used by school employees and agents to prevent bodily harm or death but retain the instruction that force must be “reasonable” in those situations.
Ellison said the law allows employees options to stop bad behavior.
“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’s office said in a release.