Updated 4:40 p.m.
Gov. Tim Walz on Friday told MPR News that new clarifications of the state’s student prone law have helped local police agencies and school districts reset contracts for school resource officers.
And — as of now — he said he doesn’t plan to call a special legislative session to rewrite the law that bars the use of prone holds and restraints on students that limit their breathing or ability to call out.
Walz said that insurance providers who work with police agencies have said the clarification from the attorney general’s office has put them at ease, and they said departments could enter back into contracts with schools without concerns for liability.
One agency that had considered shifting its school resource officer plans is set to move forward with a contract renewing their presence in Faribault schools.
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“That's getting enough clarity that districts are saying, ‘Sure, we're back and we're doing this,’” Walz said. “So I think that's where we stand right now. And we'll just keep working it.”
The comments come a day after a statement surfaced with the names of 44 DFL lawmakers defending the law and urging Walz not to call a special session to repeal it.
Members of the House People of Color and Indigenous Caucus issued another statement Friday saying they still believe “changes to the law are not needed” but they would work with community, public safety and legislative leaders on a solution.
Some Democratic lawmakers who were resisting the calls to repeal the new law said they were encouraged by the firmer stance Walz took on Friday. Earlier in the week, he had opened the door to calling a special session for a rewrite.
“We stand by this law because it's the right thing to do,” said Sen. Zaynab Mohamed, DFL-Minneapolis. “We actually commend the governor for coming out and saying no special session is needed, that he's got the clarity that he wanted.”
Walz told MPR News that he was confident that the attorney general’s clarification and updated guidance from the League of Minnesota Cities and other groups would help more local agencies put school resource officers back in place without a legislative change.
Last month, several local agencies announced that they would pull school resource officers due to concerns about the policy approved as part of a larger education bill this spring. The change would require bar school staff and school resource officers from restraining students in a way that impedes their ability to breathe or call out for help.
Law enforcement groups said the law is too murky and raised problems with officer liability in situations that could turn violent. Clarification of the law says that staff and school resource officers would be able to use the holds in situations where there was a threat of injury or death.
GOP legislative leaders this week repeated their call for Walz to call a special session to clear up concerns.
“With dozens of school districts currently without SRO coverage across Minnesota, it’s incredibly urgent that we fix this problem, get SROs back in schools, and keep our students safe,” House Minority Leader Lisa Demuth, R-Cold Spring, said Thursday in a statement responding to Democrats’ call not to change the law.
“It’s disappointing to see so many Democrats opposed to a special session and continuing their irresponsible anti-law enforcement rhetoric.”
Lawmakers are set to return for the 2024 legislative session on Feb. 12.