South Carolina school officer fired, but more fallout possible

29 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Cops Are In Schools For A Reason.

COLUMBIA, S.C. A South Carolina sheriff’s deputy seen hurling a student to the ground and then dragging her across the floor in a widely viewed video has been fired, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said Wednesday. Deputy Ben Fields had been on administrative leave since the Monday incident. “Deputy Ben Fields did wrong Monday,” Lott said, adding that Fields had been terminated from the department roughly 20 minutes before the noon press announcement. Fields’ firing is not the end of a rolling debate over who bears the brunt of the blame for the encounter, which also has brought into question ongoing concerns about the role of police in schools.

In the wake of the firing, though, questions remain about whether the officer should have been in the classroom in the first place, and where the former deputy goes from here. Todd Rutherford, an attorney for the still-unidentified student, told “Good Morning America” on Wednesday that she had neck and back injuries, a cast on her arm and a rug burn on her forehead because of Fields’ aggressive treatment. “We believe that Mr. Fields’ actions were carried out professionally and that he was performing his job duties within the legal threshold,” wrote his attorney, Scott J. But — as is the case with other racially-charged events involving police — the furor over the takedown doesn’t just end with the officer’s departure. (RELATED: Arrest Of S.C.

Student Sparks FBI Civil Rights Investigation) Janel George, senior education policy counsel for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, wrote for CNN that school police officers do their utmost to terrorize students of color and need to be removed in order to make sure everyone feels safe. On Tuesday, Lott called the footage “disturbing,” but denied race was a factor because Fields “has been dating an African-American woman for quite some time.” On Wednesday, he said he welcomed “people to video us doing our job.” “As in any incident, videos are very useful to us. But he cautioned that videos are just a snapshot and “don’t tell the complete picture.” Fields arrested the teen girl after she reportedly ignored her teacher’s order to put away her cell phone. Waiting in a black Chevrolet Malibu, Deborah Johnson, 47, an African American registered nurse whose daughter is in 10th grade, said she knew Fields as a friend and did not think he was racist.

The aggressive discipline is just one example of the school-to-prison pipeline phenomenon, in which black children are more likely to be criminalized for their behavior than their white peers. When her daughter ran track, she remembered, he ran up to her and hugged her. “Ben was the type of fellow who likes to assist people,” she said. “He was good to my kids.

He added that minority students are unfairly disciplined in school, and having law enforcement anywhere near the vicinity of an education facility is bound to produce violence. 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.

Robby Soave of Reason (and formerly of The Daily Caller) also thought that the incident served as a wake-up call for why police presence in schools should be reduced. Soave says the officers on school property actually increase crime through escalating otherwise mild incidents, saying cops are rather unneeded in places that are “already very safe.” These critics, and others, are in agreement that officers who intervene in disputes and acts of disobedience that are perfectly normal for teenagers, can actually be resolved by a teacher or principal.

At the same time the media was fixated on Fields’s manhandling of a student, local news in Sacramento, California, reported on another school-based bodyslam. The sheriff also had stern words for the student who he said started the confrontation by refusing to hand over her cellphone after her math teacher saw her texting in class — a violation of school policy. A jury ruled in Fields’ favor in a 2007 excessive force suit, and the deputy is awaiting trial on the second suit over a student’s alleged wrongful expulsion. 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. You can’t go around treating people’s children like that.” Still, Jackson agreed that the student on Monday bore some responsibility. “If she hadn’t caused the classroom disruption, this might not have happened,” he said.

But, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, student violence against teachers is on the rise, along with a whole host of other troubling, school-based crimes. How a teacher — who’s splayed out on the floor after a student knocked him or her down — would be able to take control of that situation is anybody’s guess. In a second lawsuit filed in 2010, a black couple sued Fields and another deputy, alleging they had used excessive force during a 2005 noise complaint and arrest in Columbia. But now that one cop was videotaped using excessive force against an African-American, we apparently need to ditch the idea entirely to make schools safe.

A third lawsuit, filed by a former student in 2013, accused Fields of wrongly identifying the student as a gang member, leading to the student’s expulsion. The implication behind the criticism of school police is that the teens are inherently good and any serious offense would be a one-in-a-million aberration. The student, Ashton James Reese, said Fields “unfairly and recklessly targets African American students with allegations of gang membership and criminal gang activity.”

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