Sen. Gene Dornink: Republicans propose legislative fix to address the consequences of new SRO law change
Published 5:20 pm Friday, September 1, 2023
Friends and neighbors,
We have recently seen student resource officers (SROs) step down across our state due to uncertainty surrounding a statewide school discipline law. Law enforcement agencies are concerned about a new policy banning SROs from using techniques to de-escalate unsafe situations and keep our students safe.
When this legislation moved through the Senate Education Policy Committee, Republicans voiced their significant concern with the policy change and urged Democrats to talk with SROs about it. However, they ignored the issues and forced it into law, not even giving this bill a hearing in the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. Democrats ignoring stakeholders is a recurring theme we saw with many issue areas last session.
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Unfortunately, we are now seeing the results of the Democrats’ rushed policy as more and more SROs are pulled from our schools. And in the last two weeks, at least a dozen police departments have announced they are removing SROs.
In a letter to member officers, the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA) asked officers to “evaluate risks associated with the new law to make a choice on whether to participate in school functions.” In response, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison provided a legal opinion to Education Commissioner Willie Jett that notes “the Amendment does not limit the types of reasonable force that may be used by school staff and agents to prevent harm or death.” Law enforcement leaders do not believe that the AG’s opinion provides enough clarity to dispel their concerns.
Our SROs keep our schools and students safe, and we must provide our officers with the clarity needed to do their jobs effectively. We must get them back in their positions as fast as possible, and that’s why Republicans recently introduced bipartisan legislation to fix the Democrat law.
The bill simply repeals portions of the recent law change. This reversal would not impact the 2021 bill that banned all neck and chokehold restraints that remain in place for students and all Minnesotans.
Along with introducing a legislative fix, Republican Senate and House Minority Leaders also sent a letter to Gov. Tim Walz requesting an immediate special session to address this issue. With school set to begin soon, this issue needs immediate action.
I will continue to work with our local law enforcement agencies and schools as we seek a resolution that ensures the safety of our students, teachers and staff.
Secretary of State Steve Simon’s visit to Albert Lea
We are very appreciative that Secretary of State Steve Simon recently visited Wedgewood Cove in Albert Lea to hear from area businesses and citizens. He wanted to hear both the positive and negative of what those attending had on their minds. As Secretary of State, business and election matters are the two areas he has responsibility for.
The top concerns brought up regarding business were high taxes, labor shortages and mandates. Specifically, paid family leave and earned sick and safe time mandates were discussed. With Albert Lea being a border community, some businesses are leaving to go to states more friendly to businesses.
On the election side, the topic of election integrity was of big concern to many in attendance. With driver’s licenses now available for those who aren’t citizens, there is strong concern with licenses issued for non-citizens being the exact same as those of Minnesota citizens. When pressed on this concern, Secretary of State Simon shared that this wouldn’t happen very often. However, he really didn’t have a good answer to this question.
I see the non-citizen licenses as a pressure on our election judges. Provisional ballots would help avoid putting undue pressure on election judges in making these difficult decisions for those registering on Election Day. This is a topic that I know will need further review next election year.
Even though a lot of concerns were brought up, there’s still a lot to celebrate in our community. During the meeting, a member of our community shared that funding for dredging Fountain Lake recently came through. Additionally, our community just received $2 million to get a start on the new wastewater treatment place that MPCA is mandating the city of Albert Lea to build. More funding is still needed for the water treatment project, but this is a great starting point!
I appreciate everyone who took the time to attend this event and provide important feedback on current business and election issues.
If you have any questions or concerns on this or any issue, please do not hesitate to contact me. Feel free to email me at email@example.com or give me a call at 651-296-5240.