S.C. video spotlights police in schools: Do cops build trust or hurt it?

28 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

News Q’s | Race and Discipline in Spotlight After South Carolina Officer Drags Student.

One of the videos taken as a school resource officer slammed a student sitting at her desk at a South Carolina high school also shows her punching the deputy during the confrontation, authorities said Tuesday.U.S. federal authorities said yesterday they are investigating whether a deputy’s arrest of a student who refused to leave her high school math class violated federal civil rights laws.

To what “unsettling national discussion” have the videos of a white sheriff’s deputy throwing a black high school girl to the floor of a classroom contributed? 3. That video, described by Sheriff Leon Lott as the “third video,” will play a part in the internal affairs investigation into whether Senior Deputy Ben Fields violated policy in Monday’s incident at Spring Valley High School in Columbia. There are at least three videos that have surfaced of the incident — which shows the girl flailing at the officer as he is already in the middle of flipping her chair over — and their distribution online has caused an uproar on social media. He takes her silence as refusal, at which point he grabs her by the neck, pulls her backward in the desk, forcibly pulls her out of the desk and then slings her body across the classroom. South Carolina’s National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People president, Lonnie Randolph Jr., denied that, saying “race is indeed a factor.” “To be thrown out of her seat as she was thrown, and dumped on the floor . . .

When she doesn’t get up from her desk, the officer wraps a forearm around her neck, flips her and the desk backward onto the floor, tosses her toward the front of the classroom and handcuffs her. — Last year, the Obama administration issued guidelines advising schools to create more positive climates, set clear expectations and consequences for students, and ensure equity in discipline. But that’s just a snapshot.” Lott also said he doesn’t believe race was a factor in what happened — and noted that Fields has been dating an African-American woman for “quite some time.” Yet Fields — whom students allegedly referred to as “Officer Slam” — has also been the subject of previous excessive force and racial bias allegations. Yet a recent analysis of federal data identified districts in 13 Southern states where black students are suspended or expelled at rates overwhelmingly higher than white children. Under carceral logics, educators are told to outsource classroom management to police officers (school resource officers) who are sanctioned to use force and to arrest students even for non-violent offenses.

Lott, who rushed home from an out of town conference when the news broke, said the girl “may have had a rug burn” but was not injured, and that a teacher and vice principal in the classroom at the time felt the officer acted appropriately. Comey, waded into a deeply controversial issue last week, suggesting that intense scrutiny of police officers in “the era of viral videos” could be a reason for an increase in violent crime.

But this is what behavior management now looks like in an increasing number of public schools, particularly those that have a predominantly Black population of students. Some, black and white alike, said the issue wasn’t based on race, and, while the officer may have used unnecessary force, the whole incident shows that teachers and administrators need to work harder on finding ways to handle defiant students. “If that was my daughter … that officer being fired would be the least of his worries,” Conwell said. “We are sick and tired of black women being abused. This week, the White House said that it did not agree. “I spoke to officers privately in one big city precinct who described being surrounded by young people with mobile phone cameras held high, taunting them the moment they get out of their cars,” Mr. Comey said. “They told me, ‘We feel like we’re under siege and we don’t feel much like getting out of our cars.’ ” Many have called it “the Ferguson effect,” referring to the protests that erupted in the summer of 2014 after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black man in Ferguson, Mo. It’s statute reads: “The governing body of each school district may provide corporal punishment for any pupil that it deems just and proper” (Code of Laws 59-63-260).

But this explanation for a crime increase has been criticized because it can be seen as suggesting that those who protest police tactics are in part to blame for violent crime. At an earlier news conference, school district officials Tuesday blasted Fields’ actions, calling them “outrageous” and “reprehensible,” and the video itself “shamefully shocking.” Schools Superintendent Debbie Hamm said the district is strengthening its training efforts with school resource officers to ensure such an incident doesn’t happen again. Reaction over the video has been swift, and members of the group the Richland Two Black Parents Association called the officers’ actions “unacceptable,” reported NBC affiliate WIS. In this case, corporal punishment is the prelude and pretext for introducing two young women into the school-to-prison pipeline for minor, non-violent incidences of failure to comply. The sheriff, for his part, said race won’t factor into his evaluation: “It really doesn’t matter to me whether that child had been purple,” Lott said.

Despite a recent speech by President Obama about the challenges facing Black women and girls particularly in schools, Black girls vulnerability to the threat of state-sanctioned force still plays almost no role in public policy discussions about the need to reform school discipline. Across the state of South Carolina, Black students make up 36 percent of the population but 60 percent of the suspensions and 62 percent of the expulsions. When they won’t get up, when they won’t put up the phone, they’re silly, disobedient kids – not criminals,” said John Whitehead, founder of the Rutherford Institute, a nonprofit civil liberties and human rights organization. It is almost as if she knew his brutality was coming, almost as if she were steeling herself for the blow, almost as if she was no stranger to having somebody with power put his hands on her, almost as if she were sure that no one would stand up to protect her.

In his book, “The Sovereignty of Quiety: Beyond Resistance in Black Culture,” Kevin Quashie argues that “quiet is antithetical to how we think about black culture, and by extension, black people.” But the refusal of this Black girl to get loud in the stereotypical way that we always imagine Black women to act in public space tells us something about her interior life. Quashie says that the interior is “the reservoir of thoughts, feelings, desires, fears, ambitions that shape a human self.” We know little about the interior lives of Black girls, little about how they experience and process terror and harassment, little of how they make sense of it. But the audacity to be quiet rather than to shout should speak volumes to us not only about the pain this teen girl carries but also about the level of self-possession on which she insists. In the face of her quietness and seeming insolence, Ben Fields picked up the girl as she sat in her desk, and slung her across the room as though she were a rag doll. But Fields choice to use such violent discipline against someone who clearly lacked physical power against him was meant as an object lesson, to instill fear and compel compliance in the other Black youth who were forced to watch.

This past summer, just days after Dylan Roof killed 9 Black people in a Charleston church, Bree Newsome climbed a flagpole in Columbia, South Carolina, and took down the Confederate Flag.

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