House Committee Discusses Updates to 2023 SRO Bill

By: Cirien Saadeh, Executive Director and Community Journalist

Rep. Cedrick Frazier introduces the SRO legislation at a Feb. 13 meeting of the House Public Safety Finance and Policy committee meeting. Screenshot by Cirien Saadeh

Community members, law enforcement officers, and education activists spoke on Feb. 13 at a House Public Safety Finance and Policy committee meeting. Legislators were discussing House File 3489, which modifies use of prone restraints by school resource officers, following passage of an earlier bill in the 2023 legislative session. 

“This bill specifically addresses prone restraints and the reason we’re having this conversation is because we had one of the most tragic situations happen in the State of Minnesota when we had the killing of George Floyd by former officer Chauvin,” said Rep. Cedrick Frazier (DFL – 43A), the bill’s author. “Many folks when they envision a prone restraint, they are envisioning, in fact, that incident, that interaction that took the life of George Floyd when they think about a prone restraint.”

The 2023 legislation led to school resource officers (SROs) staying out of numerous districts across Minnesota, as law enforcement officers and other stakeholder groups sought clarifications on exactly when SROs are allowed to use prone restraint and other holds in Minnesota schools. 

The proposed legislation would define the duties of a school resource officer, clarify training requirements, and establish a process for developing a model policy. 

According to Legal Counsel Ben Johnson, a member of the legislative nonpartisan staff, Minnesota law (with additional clarification by Attorney General Keith Ellison) already allows for the use of prone restraints in cases where there is a risk of bodily harm or death. 

There were over twenty testifiers at the committee meeting, alongside letters written to the committee. Testifiers included representatives of law enforcement associations, education activists from groups like EdAllies and the Solutions Not Suspensions Coalition, students representing the Robbinsdale Cooper High School Multicultural Advisory Committee as well as the Minnesota Youth Council, educators, and medical professionals. 

Advocates for the bill primarily discussed the importance of SROs to their feeling of school safety, as well as the relationships that students build with SROs present in their school buildings. 

“As a Black teen woman in high school, safety is an important factor in my life. I love to be able to walk into my schools and feel safe and know that there are SROs present, who are watching me to make sure I am safe, constantly throughout the day, until I leave that building,” said Darien Muhen, a student at Robbinsdale Cooper High School and member of their RCHS Multicultural Advisory Committee. 

Opponents of the bill discussed their concerns about the usage of prone restraints. 

“Prone restraints are harmful to children both physically and emotionally. It is my medical opinion that use of a facedown, forcible, prone restraint does limit the ability of a child to breathe,” said Hannah Lichstinn, MD, who also represented the Minnesota Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics. “We therefore ask that this committee vote to maintain existing language that restricts prone restraint use by all adults including law enforcement officers in Minnesota schools.” 

House File 3489 was laid over for further discussion. In the Senate, Senate File 3534 has passed out of the Senate Education Policy committee and has been re-referred to the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety committee. The bill will be heard in the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety committee on Feb. 19 at 12:30pm.

You can read speaker-by-speaker notes from the Feb. 13 House Public Safety Finance and Policy committee here

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