CJ Baumgartner | Local News

Otter Tail Co. Sheriff’s Dept. Pulls Student Resource Officer From Underwood School Amid New State Statutes

Underwood School
Photo Credit: Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office Facebook Page

The Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office has suspended the School Resource Officer (SRO) Program at the Underwood School, according to a Facebook post by Sheriff Barry Fitzgibbons.

The program suspension comes as a result of changes in laws regarding the ability of an agent of the school, which includes the SRO, to handle certain situations.

“We will continue to work with Underwood School Administration as well as state legislators to work towards clarification or modification to the law.”

MN Statute 121A.58 & 121A.582 has new language restricting the SRO’s ability to respond to situations. The new law, according to the Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Department, does not allow a SRO to use appropriate reasonable force to remove a disruptive student, a student who is damaging property or a student that is creating an unsafe environment unless the student poses a threat of bodily harm or death.

When reasonable force would be allowed due to a threat of bodily harm or death, certain holds and restraints are now prohibited. The department says that Use of Force incidents by SRO’s are very rare, but, when necessary, SRO’s need to be able to take control of a situation to ensure the safety of all students and staff.

Otter Tail County Sherriff’s Department isn’t alone in their decision to pull SRO’s from schools in their jurisdiction due to the new statutes in the law. Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office is also pulling their SRO from Rockford High School, among other schools across the state following similar action.

“The Otter Tail County Sheriff’s Office remains committed to the safety of our schools and the School Resource Officer Program, and will remain to have a patrol presence in or near the school,” Fitzgibbons said in the post. “My goal is to have the SRO Program resume at the Underwood School as soon as possible. These new laws only apply to SRO’s assigned to the school. Deputies that are not assigned to the school or in the capacity of an SRO are not affected by the new laws and will respond accordingly.”