Update: Following the viral spread of the video and the massive twitter following using the hashtag
#assaultatspringvalleyhigh the Sheriff’s Department that had previously asked persons ‘not to judge’ the officer’s attack since the student was being unruly has had to change tunes. The FBI and U.S. Justice Department has reportedly been called in to handle the investigation.
A disturbing altercation between a South Carolina high school student and a uniformed school cop was captured on video Monday during what appears to be the student’s arrest. The violent manner and what some call an unnecessary amount of force that the officer uses on the young student have sparked social media outrage and also prompted the school and police to launch an investigation.
In the video the student, a black female, is seen sitting at her desk moments before the school cop approaches and violently rips her from her chair. The female student is then body slammed into the ground before being tossed across the floor. The officer then uses his knee to pin her head is to the floor before he yells at her and places her in handcuffs.
“Hands behind your back—give me your hands.”
The video of the violent encounter appears to have filmed by another student using a cellphone. There are two different videos of the same violent encounter, and the second one, while of a lesser quality, does show the beginning of the encounter and gives a small amount of context as to why the officer used force on the student. From the second angle, before the student is grabbed and body slammed the officer can be heard asking her to get up. However, when she refuses he is heard telling her that he will make her get up and it is at this point that he puts her in a light chokehold, lifts her and the chair up, flips it and then throws them both to the ground. All this takes place in front of a classroom full of students. When another student tries to protest the treatment of her classmate the officer threatens her with the same treatment.
“Hey, I’ll put you in jail next.”
The school at the center of the growing controversy is Spring Valley High School in Columbia’s Richland County, S.C., and as the story spread they have received a lot of criticism along with the Sheriff’s department. The International Business Times reports that Curtis Wilson, spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Department, said that Sheriff Leon Lott was “totally disturbed” by the video. Sheriff Lott did go on to state that Fields was responding to a call that a student who was disturbing a class refused to leave and he was required to take action when the student refused to comply even when the officer asked her. This refusal to cooperate is what led to her being body slammed and then arrested.
The school district’s Black Parents Association and the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina issued statements of outrage calling the officer’s actions an “egregious use of force” and stating that “there is no justification whatsoever for treating a child like this.” Another parent of the Black Parents Association stated that the severity of the officer’s actions may have been due to the fact that the student is a black female.
“Parents are heartbroken as this is just another example of the intolerance that continues to be of issue in Richland County School District Two, particularly with families and children of color.”
The cop in the video has been identified as Officer Ben Fields and according to NBC News the Richland County Sheriff office has stated that Fields has been placed on paid administrative leave, pending an official internal investigation. Fields was allegedly told not to return to any schools in the district. Ben Fields has also reportedly declined all requests for an interview. Reports also indicate that officer Fields, who is white, may have a history of targeting black students. In a 2013 federal lawsuit, he was named as a defendant for claims that he “unfairly and recklessly targets African-American students with allegations of gang membership and criminal gang activity.”
The superintendent of the school district, Debbie Hamm issued a statement of deep concern about the violent confrontation between the officer and the black female student. She also reported that the school district will be working closely with the Sheriffs Department to conduct a thorough investigation into the violent confrontation between the student and the officer that ended in her being body slammed.
“Student safety is and always will be the District’s top priority. The District will not tolerate any actions that jeopardize the safety of our students.”
[Photo Courtesy of YouTube screencap]