Officials in South Carolina are calling for a federal investigation after cell phone video showed a police officer throwing a Spring Valley High School student out of her desk and dragging her across the classroom.
Multiple videos were taken by other students in the classroom of the encounter between the white male officer and a black female student. The videos begin by showing the officer walking up to the girl and telling her to get up and leave the classroom. Shortly after speaking to the girl, the officer is seen putting her in a chokehold and flipping her desk over while she is still sitting in it as he attempts to remove her from it.
Leon Lott, the Richland County sheriff, said that the officer, a deputy with the sheriff’s department, was responding to a disruptive student refusing to leave the classroom.
“The student was told she was under arrest for disturbing school and given instructions which she again refused,” Lott said. “The video then shows the student resisting and being arrested by the SRO.”
Lott said he was “as upset as anybody and I’m very disturbed by what I saw,” and he has contacted the FBI to request an independent investigation into the incident.
“Appropriate action is going to be taken,” Lott said. “We’re going to do it as quick as possible. This isn’t something that’s going to linger on for weeks, or months or even days. It’s going to be done very swiftly.”
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The New York Times reported that Spring Valley High School is “a campus of about 2,000 students that is about 52 percent black and 30 percent white,” and that while officials have not released the names of either of the officer or the student, multiple students identified the officer as Ben Fields, a deputy who is assigned to the school.
One student who filmed the altercation, 18-year-old Niya Kenny, said she was also arrested for “disturbing schools” due to her reaction to the officer’s confrontation with the student.
“I was screaming ‘What the f, what the f is this really happening?’ I was praying out loud for the girl,” Kenny said. “I just couldn’t believe this was happening I was just crying and he said, since you have so much to say you are coming too. I just put my hands behind my back.”
Kenny said the student was asked by the teacher to leave the classroom for not participating. Kenny said when the student refused, an administrator was called in followed by the resource officer. Regarding the use of force by the officer, Kenny said she had never seen anything like it before.
“I know this girl don’t got nobody and I couldn’t believe this was happening,” Kenny said. “I had never seen nothing like that in my life, a man use that much force on a little girl. A big man, like 300 pounds of full muscle. I was like ‘no way, no way.’ You can’t do nothing like that to a little girl. I’m talking about she’s like 5’6″.”
A shorter video, seen below, shows the physical confrontation from a more direct angle following the verbal interaction.