Videos of Deputy Dragging Student Play to Contentious Issue

28 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

FBI to investigate S.C. school incident caught on video.

But Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said Tuesday that his internal investigation is looking into the actions of his officer, not the student’s action.COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Justice Department opened a civil rights investigation Tuesday after a deputy flipped a student backward in her desk and tossed her across the floor for refusing to leave her math class. Lott says he hopes to have the results of his agency’s internal investigation within 24 hours and then he will determine whether Senior Deputy Ben Fields will keep his job.

— In the wake of the video that surfaced of a South Carolina classroom where a school resource officer could be seen forcibly pulling a student out of her chair, the FBI and the Department of Justice have opened an investigation into the matter. Lott, whose agency is in charge of the school resource program at the school, was in Chicago at a law enforcement meeting when the incident took place. Her classmates are watching, and they give vital context. “She really hadn’t done anything wrong,” said one student, Tony Robinson Jr., who gave his account to a local news station. The officer then wraps a forearm around her neck, flips her and the desk backward onto the floor, and tosses her toward the front of the classroom, where he handcuffs her. Fields, a sheriff’s deputy, has a troubled history in law enforcement. “In 2007,” reports the New York Times, “Carlos Martin and his wife, Tashiana Martin, sued Officer Fields, Sheriff Lott, and another deputy, Robert Clark, for violating their civil rights during a routine investigation of a noise complaint.” In the encounter, says the complaint, Fields slammed Carlos Martin to the ground, handcuffed him, kicked him, and emptied a can of pepper spray into his face.

She said she took her phone out, but it was only for a quick second, you know, please, she was begging, apologetic.” “Next, the administrator called Deputy Fields in … he asked, ‘will you move,’ and she said ‘no, I haven’t done anything wrong,’” Robinson said. “When I saw what was going to happen, my immediate first thing to think was, let me get this on camera. Fields was sued again in 2013 by a former student at Spring Valley who had been expelled for “unlawful assembly of gang activity and assault and battery.” The lawsuit, notes the Times, says that Fields “unfairly and recklessly targets African-American students with allegations of gang membership and criminal gang activity.” It’s easy to treat all of this as isolated behavior from an overly aggressive police officer and a teacher who couldn’t manage his classroom without outside authority. But the fact is that this incident—where police force, normally reserved for criminal offenders, was used to discipline a student—is incredibly common. 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. Police should guard doors to “stop the crazies from getting in these schools,” Whitehead said, but “when you have police in the schools, you’re going to run into this – having police do what teachers and parents should do.” The National Association of School Resource Officers recommends that schools and police agree to prohibit officers “from becoming involved in formal school discipline situations that are the responsibility of school administrators.” Mayor Steve Benjamin also called for an independent investigation.

School Superintendent Debbie Hamm said “the district will not tolerate any actions that jeopardize the safety of our students.” School Board Chairman Jim Manning said “there is no doubt that the video is extremely disturbing. The amount of force used on a female student by a male officer appears to me to be excessive and unnecessary.” In another case, a federal jury sided with Fields after a black couple accused him of excessive force and battery during a noise complaint arrest in 2005. This is going to be something that not only I’m going to be like ‘wow did this really happened at my class,’ but just something that everybody else needs to see. Zero tolerance was national policy, and school districts devised their own codes meant to stop minor incidents before they blossomed into major ones, a public school analogue to the “broken windows” policies in places like New York City.

What’s more, crime fears—as well as the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado—led to more police officers in schools as well: The number of “school resource officers” increased 38 percent to more than 13,000 in 2007, up from 9,446 in 1997. In practice, however, zero-tolerance policies became grounds for suspending students over relatively minor offenses, like disrupting and skipping class, or shooting spit balls.

And that is where it started right there.” “I’ve never seen anything so nasty looking, so sick to the point that you know, other students are turning away, don’t know what to do, and are just scared for their lives,” Robinson said. “That’s supposed to be somebody that’s going to protect us. Even adjusting for poverty—which tends to correlate with safety—the total arrest rate in schools with officers was almost three times the rate for schools without them. “About 92,000 students were arrested in school during the 2011–2012 school year,” notes Vox. “And most of those were low-level violations.” As is often true, from the war on drugs to mass incarceration, the brunt of this punitive policy falls hardest on black and Latino Americans.

Department of Education Office for Civil Rights, black students are suspended and expelled at a rate three times greater than white students, 16 percent versus 5 percent. This is true for all ages: “Black children,” notes the DOE, “represent 18 percent of preschool enrollment, but 48 percent of preschool children receiving more than one out-of-school suspension.” White students, by contrast, “represent 43 percent of preschool enrollment but 26 percent of preschool children receiving more than one out-of-school suspension.” Students of color with disabilities are also more likely to be restrained or suspended: Black students constitute 21 percent of all students with disabilities, but 44 percent of those subject to mechanical restraints. The answer is no. “Despite higher rates of school suspensions for black, latino, and Native American students, there appear to be few racial differences in the offenses most likely to lead to zero tolerance policy violations,” write researchers at Indiana University. In general, notes the Kirwan Institute at Ohio State University, “Research suggests that when given an opportunity to choose among several disciplinary options for a relatively minor offense, teachers and school administrators often choose more severe punishment for black students than for white students for the same offense.” In fact, according to one study of Texas schools, 97 percent of suspensions were the choice of administrators, as only 3 percent of students had broken rules that required such punishment. A 2011 study of North Carolina schools from the National Education Policy Center found that 32 percent of black students were suspended for first-time offense of cellphone use at school, compared with just 15 percent of white students.

And if you’re feeling cynical, it’s how they’re supposed to work, with segregated or predominantly black schools feeding the maw of our nearly insatiable prison system.

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