In Columbia, South Carolina, students and parents are upset after witnessing both in person and on video the actions of Spring Valley High School Resource Officer Ben Fields as he forcibly removed a female African American student from her desk in a classroom there. Police violence is once again at the forefront of the headlines.
The Richland County Sheriff’s Department told the station that a disruptive student refused to leave after a teacher and an administrator asked her to. Sheriff Leon Lott told the station the officer forcibly removed the student and she resisted arrest.
Lott said the child was put under arrest.
A sheriff’s department spokesman said Lott was disturbed by the video, the department said in a statement. The officer in the video, Deputy Ben Fields will be placed on administrative duties, the department said.
“Sheriff Leon Lott is out of town attending a Law Enforcement conference – he did see the video and was very disturbed by it. He has questions like everyone has – and he wants answers and once he has those answers he will address them. The Sheriff is asking for everyone to be patient as this is being fully investigated,” the department said.
In a statement published on WLTX, Richland County District Two superintendent Libby Roof said the district was “deeply concerned” about the incident.
“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,” the statement read.
Resource officers from local law enforcement have long been a part of the public school environment in the US. According to blackfootpolice.org, the first documented School Resource Officer (SRO) was put in place in Flint, Michigan, in the 1950s. SROs are supposed to help school administrators maintain peace and security in the educational environment. Incidents like the one in Columbia, South Carolina, today fuel the fire against these programs. Many parents and community members don’t like having a constant police presence in the lives of their students. Some feel it leads to more youth entering the juvenile court system.
Regardless of the success of SROs in the schools, the strong-armed approach that Officer Ben Fields took with this young woman today was uncalled for. If the government is looking to create a police state, this is how to start it. Students should be treated with respect and kindness even in the face of rebellious behavior.