MANKATO — Mankato Area Public Schools has listed the need to clarify language related to school resource officers at the top of its 2024 legislative platform ahead of the start of session next Monday.
During a district meeting with DFL Rep. Luke Frederick, of Mankato, DFL Sen. Nick Frentz, of North Mankato and DFL Rep. Jeff Brand, of St. Peter Monday evening, Frederick said the House’s intention is for the issue to be one of the first they address.
“It goes back to what should or should not be used in schools, and I think that’s part of what’s getting worked through behind the scenes still to come to the consensus on language that everyone can support,” he said.
This comes as communities statewide are hoping lawmakers take on the matter after many pulled SROs from their school districts at the beginning of the school year while seeking clarification on language for the use of force in last year’s education bill.
Attorney General Keith Ellison issued a supplemental opinion on the matter that said that new amendments do not affect the definition of “reasonable force” that may be used when carrying out arrests and other lawful duties.
SROs in many communities returned to campuses after the opinion was issued, but stakeholders are still looking for more clarity.
Supt. Paul Peterson also told The Free Press before Monday’s meeting about the importance of lawmakers’ input.
“We want to make sure that whatever sort of language that needs to get cleaned up does so that safety measure for our kids and for our staff is in place,” he said.
Lawmakers said the issue could be addressed as early as during the first couple days of session.
The district also has other school safety items on its platform this year, including wanting lawmakers to address cybersecurity, data privacy and statutory requirements for school districts.
The district is also hoping the legislature funds new requirements they passed in 2023, including by finding a permanent state funding stream for unemployment insurance and paid leave.
Last year, lawmakers also passed new reading requirements known as the Read Act.
The requirements implement evidence-based reading instruction that teaches foundational skills including phonics, fluency, vocabulary, comprehension and written language.
Board Member Patrick Baker asked lawmakers to consider the price tag that comes along with the new requirements.
“Our school district does not have the ability to levy in the way that cities and counties do to offset those costs,” he said.
“Either A, the legislature pays for the things that it passes, or B (find) a way to allow for school districts to levy to pay for the things that (are required.)”
Other district platform items this session include support for job pathways to recruit new teachers and expanded options for accelerated licensure as well as mental health and early childhood support.