Violent South Carolina classroom arrest adds to ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ debate

28 Oct 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

South Carolina sheriff fires deputy seen manhandling teenage girl in video.

A South Carolina sheriff’s deputy captured on video this week pulling a female student from her desk in a school classroom and tossing her to the floor has been fired.The white sheriff’s deputy who was caught on video flipping a black high school student out of her classroom chair in Columbia, South Carolina, will be relieved of duty, MSNBC reported on Wednesday.

Ben Fields, who had been suspended without pay since Monday, is no longer a deputy with the Richland County sheriff’s department, sheriff Leon Lott announced on Wednesday after he completed an internal investigation. MSNBC, citing sources, said the firing of Ben Fields, a sheriff’s deputy in Richland County, South Carolina, is expected to be announced during a news conference later on Tuesday. Fields’ suspension was not nearly enough for one parent, who asked the school board on Tuesday night: “You’re beating up little girls in school and you’re thinking about firing him?” Others simply expressed their disgust for the officer’s behavior at Spring Valley High School, including one mother who said: “if I want to put my hand on my child that’s my business, but for somebody else to grab my child, that’s just despicable.” But the school board hearing also exposed fault lines in the community.

One result has been the deployment of an estimated 14,000 officers on campuses across the country, a number of them carrying weapons, and a number of them now tasked with duties that go well beyond holding shooters and gangsters at bay. Hamm also released a statement, saying the district is “deeply concerned” and “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.” Lott told reporters he “wanted to throw up” after watching the video, but added that he doubted any racial element to the incident, in part because Fields has dated an African American woman for “quite some time”. And infractions that once resulted in detention may now leave students with criminal records — a phenomenon that critics say disproportionately affects African American students. The girl in the South Carolina incident, captured on other students’ cellphone videos, faces a misdemeanor charge under South Carolina’s “disturbing school” law. “What we find is school safety becomes conflated with school discipline — officers dealing with classroom disruptions, dress code infractions, minor discipline infractions that in the past would have been handled by teachers,” said Janel George, a senior education policy counsel at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund.

In the 2011-12 school year, black students represented about 16% of the student population, but accounted for 27% of all student referrals to law enforcement, and 31% of school-related arrests, according to a federal report from the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights. The statistics were so alarming that last year Los Angeles Unified School District police stopped giving citations for fighting, petty theft and other minor offenses in response to growing research showing that when police handle such matters, struggling students are more apt to drop out and get in more serious trouble with the law. There are no national standards for training school police, according to Mo Canady, executive director of the National Assn. of School Resource Officers, the name typically given to school police.

School districts have stepped up the police presence on campus to “bridge the gap between police officers and youth.” When officers are well trained and work closely with school officials, arrests in schools go down rather than up, he said. Lott noted South Carolina’s disturbing-school law makes it a misdemeanor “to interfere with or to disturb in any way or in any place the students or teachers of any school or college in this state,” which could apply to a broad range of behavior. “I think sometimes our officers are put in uncomfortable positions when a teacher can’t control a student,” Lott said. “We don’t need to arrest these students.

When the student refused the vice principal’s request to leave, officials called in the deputy, Fields, who also helps coach the school’s football team. The teacher could have waited until the end of class to deal with the student or could have brought in a counselor trained in de-escalation, Losen said. “What happened yesterday happens so often in our public schools,” George said, adding of African American students: “These are spaces where they should feel safe.

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