Girl thrown from desk didn’t obey because the punishment was unfair, attorney says

30 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Does response to school cop video show law enforcement rift?.

When school resource officer Ben Fields entered the classroom at Spring Valley High School on Monday morning, student Niya Kenny says she knew something was going to happen. “Initially, when they said an SRO was coming, we have two — so I didn’t know which one was coming,” Kenny said. “It could have been the other one. When I saw deputy Fields, that’s when I started . . . that’s when I told them to get the cameras out, because we know his reputation — well, I know his reputation.” After Fields forcibly removed a girl who the teacher said was disrupting class by refusing to put her phone away, the deputy arrested Kenny as well. — When FBI Director James Comey told a national gathering of law enforcement leaders that cops might be easing up for fear of being caught on camera, the conference attendees included a South Carolina sheriff whose deputy was about to star in the nation’s next viral police video. — The attorney representing the former South Carolina deputy who was involved in a violent arrest of a high school student caught on video, said the officer was justified in his actions restraining the student.

How that escalated into a situation in which the girl was repeatedly told to leave the room, flipped onto her back and forcibly removed when she refused, and then charged criminally with “disturbing schools” is something educators across the country should consider before bringing an officer into the classroom. In announcing the deputy’s firing two days later, Lott called on the public to shoot more video, not less. “I would hope that every citizen that has a cellphone that has a camera on it, if they see something that’s going on and they have questions about it, they need to film it,” Lott said Wednesday. “Our citizens should police the police.

If teachers can’t manage their students, especially in the fall, they risk creating an unruly environment that sets the tone for the rest of the year. As soon as Deputy Fields walked through that door, the girl went from being a student to a suspect, and the option of force was legally on the table — along with arrest, humiliation and a criminal record. The deputy was fired from the sheriff’s department after an internal investigation, and a federal investigation is underway by Columbia FBI Field Office, the Civil Rights Division, and the U.S.

That’s their job, too.” Comey’s and Lott’s comments — one questioning whether video is causing a chilling effect, the other saying it can only help — are the latest contribution to an intensifying debate over the role of cellphones in policing. It’s up to school teachers and administrators to deal with disciplinary issues, and a memorandum of agreement delineates the circumstances under which it’s OK for officers to get involved. If they confront a student and the encounter turns physical or violent, or if they are accused of inappropriate conduct, they can face lengthy investigations that can potentially end their careers. Fields’ actions were justified and lawful throughout the circumstances of which he was confronted during this incident,” a portion of the statement reads. “To that extent, we believe that Mr. The other, Josh, teaches a law-school clinic in which students represent teens in Richland County Family Court, including multiple teens charged with “disturbing schools,” the same offense alleged against the Spring Valley student in Monday’s video.

Department of Justice has launched a civil rights investigation into the South Carolina school video, the most recent example of how citizen-shot footage of police encounters is inspiring not just outrage but criminal investigations. Her attorneys said the criminal charge against her — disturbing schools — needs to be resolved before they consider whether or not to sue the deputy and school district.

In June, Officer Michael Slager in North Charleston, South Carolina, was charged with murder after a witness captured video of him shooting Walter Scott, an unarmed black man, in the back as Scott was running away. Both she and another student who verbally challenged the officer’s actions during the arrest still face misdemeanor charges of disturbing schools, punishable by up to a $1,000 fine or 90 days in jail, Lott said, although in most cases, judges impose alternative sentences that keep students out of jail. “The student was not allowing the teacher to teach and not allowing the students to learn. After the fact, both the teacher and the school administrator involved “voiced support for [Deputy Fields] and his actions,” according to the county sheriff’s department. And on Monday, Baltimore’s top prosecutor announced assault charges against a police officer who was seen on video spitting on a detainee who was handcuffed on the floor.

But he was also careful to add that the student started it and that bad behavior that interrupts the educational environment will not be tolerated. “When classrooms are disrupted by a student, then the teacher cannot perform his/her job and other students cannot learn,” he said, concluding that the event “should be used as a learning opportunity for us all to move forward in a positive way.” I agree, but the lesson should not be on the appropriate use of force in the classroom to create the right “educational environment” — it should be on the appropriate use of police. Addressing a law enforcement conference last Friday in Chicago, Comey suggested the possibility that the pervasiveness of smartphones could be inhibiting officers’ ability, or at least their willingness, to fight crime: Cops who feel as if they’re constantly being watched could be less aggressive and less likely to walk their beats, engage with the public and use force when necessary. “In today’s YouTube world, are officers reluctant to get out of their cars and do the work that controls violent crime? School resource officers should be “focused on protecting the physical safety of the school [and] preventing the criminal conduct of persons other than students.” Educators, not officers, should handle routine school discipline. But one fifth-grader at Hancock Park Elementary tried Peterson’s patience by standing on his chair and yelling when he got frustrated and needed attention. Are officers answering 911 calls but avoiding the informal contact that keeps bad guys from standing around, especially with guns?” he said. “I don’t know.” Rich Roberts, a spokesman for the International Union of Police Associations, said the climate surrounding police, including ubiquitous cellphone recording, is certainly impacting how officers do their jobs. “They are under more subjective emotional scrutiny than they’ve ever been,” he said. “They’re dealing with a more hostile public.

Officers will be more cautious in their approach, and that’s not necessarily good police work.” But Jim Pasco, Executive Director of the National Fraternal Order of Police, took issue with the notion that hands-off policing is contributing to spiking crime Asked Thursday about Comey’s comments, Lott said officers generally shouldn’t fear being filmed as long as they’re not misbehaving. He acknowledged that some officers worry they’ll get in trouble anyway based on a few seconds of footage of normal, acceptable tactics that citizens might find jarring. “What cops are scared of is sometimes the video shows a snapshot and not the whole picture,” Lott told The Associated Press, “and that snapshot tends to form public opinion when the facts of the whole situation are not known.” Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis assumed the position after his predecessor, Anthony Batts, was fired in July in the aftermath of riots over the death of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who suffered a critical spinal injury in police custody. The Department of Justice’s Investigation of the Ferguson Police Department criticized the tendency of officers interacting with students to “treat routine discipline issues as criminal matters,” and other reports have made similar observations in other jurisdictions. The girl in the videos remains unidentified, but she has obtained a prominent attorney — Todd Rutherford, who also serves as House minority leader in South Carolina’s legislature — who contradicted the sheriff’s claim Tuesday that the girl “may have had a rug burn” but was otherwise uninjured.

Baltimore school police officer Lakisha Pulley was convicted last month of three counts of second-degree assault for attacking three girls inside Vanguard Collegiate Middle School. That incident was also recorded, leading criminal charges against the girls — who were initially arrested and expelled from school — to be dropped. Peterson, who taught in Los Angeles Unified School District from 2002 to 2010, began letting his students occasionally stand on their chairs to discuss their feelings and issues.

But more of them have to rise to the challenge of the tough task they took on by keeping the best interests of all their students in mind, even the so-called troublemakers. When faced with disruptions or students on cellphones, Peterson said he would try to “maintain a level of professionalism and be calm and direct.” Instead of calling in administrators, he would tell students several times that they were expected to put away their phones. Too many teachers are quick to remove kids labeled as such — disproportionately low income, black and/or disabled students — from the classroom for relatively minor infractions. He would then leave the student and check in after five minutes. “I’d ask them if they were ready to have a conversation with me,” Peterson said. “It would be quick and dirty; I wouldn’t neglect my entire class for the individual.

Such suspensions and expulsions are key contributors in the well documented school-to-prison pipeline; turning directly to the police for simple discipline just speeds up the process. Arresting students for disciplinary infractions may solve a problem in the short-term, at least in some cases, but it is likely to cause more problems in the long-term. But nationwide, tens of thousands of students are referred to law enforcement and later arrested for offenses, including everything from fighting in Baltimore to the alleged theft of chicken nuggets in Wisconsin and that now-famous homemade clock in Texas. This school year, Baltimore’s school police force was cut to seven from 75, and the officers were assigned positions patrolling the community and grounds, rather than spots inside schools.

According to a 2013 report by the Congressional Research Service, “The body of research on the effectiveness of [school resource officer] programs is noticeably limited, both in terms of the number of studies published and the methodological rigor of the studies conducted.” The limited studies that exist are often inconsistent with each other. The president of the California Federation of Teachers said he avoided calling security into his classroom when he taught at Manual Arts High School for nearly 20 years. Pechthalt said that after viewing the video, he wondered how he would’ve approached the girl. “There was so much defiance there,” he said. “It seemed like there was something deep happening.” Like others interviewed, Pechthalt said disruptive behavior was often a sign of problems at home. Further, they have the opportunity to build key relationships with an incredibly important demographic: young people, especially young people of color. I’m not sure many schools have them anymore.” Because there are fewer psychologists or aides on campuses now, Pechthalt said, some teachers will keep a disruptive student in the class if the defiant student is not preventing others from learning.

To be effective without blurring the line between school discipline and criminal justice, law-enforcement agencies and school districts should establish clear boundaries for officers working in schools. In the absence of a safety risk or a serious crime, educators should not request law-enforcement intervention, and officers should stay out of the picture, actively declining requests for intervention when necessary.

Cultural competence and implicit-bias training can promote fair and impartial responses to student behavior, enhancing positive interactions between officers and students from diverse backgrounds. Advanced training in interpersonal communication, conflict avoidance, and deescalation can help prevent violent encounters that disrupt not just the classroom, but the entire community. But as anyone who has kids or has worked around kids knows—as anyone who is being honest about their own childhood knows!—that won’t always happen.

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