Attorney General Ellison clarifies law on use of force in schools

Issues opinion to MDE Commissioner: recent amendments to school discipline laws do not preclude use of restraint to prevent death, harm to others, or self-harm

August 23, 2023 (SAINT PAUL) — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison today issued a legal opinion — upon request of Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Willie Jett pursuant to Minnesota Statutes Section 8.07 — regarding recent amendments to Minnesota’s school discipline laws. That opinion clarifies that the amendments do not limit the types of force that may be used by school employees and agents to prevent bodily harm or death, but retain the instruction that force must be “reasonable” in those situations.    

In other situations that do not pose any threat of bodily harm or death, the amendments provide that school employees and agents “shall not use prone restraint” or “inflict any form of physical holding that restricts or impairs a pupil’s ability to breathe,” among other provisions. The opinion is available on the Attorney General’s website

“Safety is essential for learning, and everyone in our schools — students, teachers, staff, administrators, SROs, and families — wants to be safe and feel safe. The aims of the new amendments to our school-discipline laws are worthy. I issued this opinion upon Commissioner Jett’s request because it is important to provide clarity about the amendments’ scope. I thank everyone who brought this issue to the attention of my office and is contributing to the conversation and our shared goal of safety. Our working together is essential to ensuring that everyone in our schools can live with dignity, safety, and respect,” Attorney General Ellison said.