Friday, September 8, 2023

Minnesota's ban on physical restraint of students has SROs seeing red

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz is weighing whether to call a special session to address law enforcement concerns over a recently passed ban on putting students in chokeholds and other extreme forms of physical restraint, according to the Minnesota Reformer. 

Republican lawmakers are urging Walz to act, claiming that the provision effectively outlaws all forms of physical force by police officers in schools, despite an opinion from Attorney General Keith Ellison stating that “reasonable” force can still be used to prevent injury or death. Several police departments across the state have announced they will not place officers in schools until they get clarification on the new law.

Lurking beneath the debate over how much force cops should use on kids is an even more fundamental question: Do police officers (known as school resource officers, or SROs) in schools make students safer? 

A forthcoming paper by researchers at the State University of New York and the RAND Corporation explores this question using the best available data to date. They find evidence that the presence of an SRO leads to a reduction in some violent incidents at school. 

But that relatively modest reduction comes at a steep cost: a massive increase in suspensions, expulsions and referrals to the criminal justice system, actions that can be ruinous to students’ lives.

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