Cities finally OK officers back in schools after botched law fixed

After being absent most of the academic year in response to controversial 2023 DFL legislation that handcuffed them in the hallways, school resource officers will soon return to Prior Lake and Savage schools. Last fall both suburban cities revoked their agreements to provide police officers to the Prior Lake Savage Area school district, due to concerns changes in law restricting an officer’s actions could endanger staff and students, as well as create legal liability.

The pullout of SROs in districts around the state led to a public backlash, forcing DFL lawmakers to revisit the ill-conceived legislation this session. But the Savage Pacer notes local elected officials declined to reconsider allowing officers back into the schools until a bipartisan fix was recently passed and signed into law.

Both the city of Prior Lake and Savage ended SRO contracts with the district last year after certain use-of-force restraints were banned by employees or “agents” of a school district, which included officers. This year’s bill clarifies SROs are allowed to use the restraints as a reasonable force in an urgent situation but not as discipline. The bill also sets up statewide standards and training for SROs.

Prior Lake City Manager Jason Wedel said the changes allow SROs to function and perform their duties at a level the city is more comfortable with. “We’re comfortable moving forward with this latest bill and putting our joint power agreements in place.”

There’ve been several high profile conflicts between students in Twin Cities schools in recent months, including an incident at Eagle Ridge Middle School in the neighboring Burnsville-Eagan-Savage school district. Not surprisingly, PLSA officials welcomed the anticipated return of school officers within about a week.

Superintendent of PLSAS Michael Thomas stated that he was grateful for the partnership the district has had with the police department over the years and looks forward to continuing that partnership.

“We are grateful for the strong partnership we have with both Prior Lake and Savage police departments,” Thomas stated in the release. “Throughout this school year both police departments continually provided direct support by patrolling our schools both during the school day and after school hours. Having these specially trained officers back in our schools again will allow them to work closer with students and form stronger relationships.”

The state’s largest school district, Anoka-Hennepin Schools, also moved quickly to redeploy 12 student resource officers from six police departments across the district.

“SROs returned to school sites without SRO coverage quickly following the law update in alignment with the School Board legislative priority. Officers from the City of Coon Rapids remained in service in the four schools covered in that city. Work with area law enforcement partners on revised agreements continues with consideration from governing bodies expected over the next several weeks,” according to a March 29 district news release. 

Apparently it’s finally safe again for school resource officers to return to the hallways without worrying about activist legislators trying to prevent them from doing their job–for now.