opinion

COLUMN: Assault at Spring Valley High School reflects police brutality



Update: Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott fired Deputy Fields on Wednesday for violating police regulations during the arrest of the Spring Valley High School student.

High school is a place to master the Pythagorean theorem, make memories with friends at a homecoming game, attend prom and maybe play a prank or two.

But high school — or anywhere, for that matter — certainly isn’t the place where you should get flipped out of your desk and thrown to the floor by a school resource officer.

That’s exactly what happened to a student attending her math class at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina, and I, like the rest of the country, am sick over it.

Videos, filmed by students, of the altercation between a black female student and a white school resource officer, Deputy Ben Fields, went viral Monday with the hashtag #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh.

In the videos, Deputy Fields asks the student to leave and then grabs her by the throat, flipping her and her desk onto the floor, throwing her across the ground and detaining her. To say he used excessive force is a blatant understatement. This grown man 
assaulted a teenage girl.

You can see students hunched over their desks, lowering their heads and trying to make themselves smaller out of fear.

According to the Inquisitr, the student was told to leave the classroom after having her laptop and phone out. When she refused, an administrator and Deputy Fields were called. After the student denied requests by the administrator and Deputy Fields to get up, she was met with physical violence.

The unidentified student and Niya Kenny, a student who stood up and objected to the assault, were arrested, according to the New York Times. A federal investigation is also in the works and Deputy Fields has been suspended without pay since Monday, according to CNN.

The video is shocking enough to make your jaw drop. To the naysayers of police brutality and modern racism, I say watch this video and try to argue in favor of Deputy Fields — you just can’t.

When would any force like what Deputy Fields demonstrated in these videos be necessary? What’s next, you beat up kids who wander the halls during class or throw a paper airplane? God forbid you ever be 
truant.

I really don’t care that this student wasn’t doing what she was told. Kids who’ve done far worse have been treated better and have gone to school without fear of being physically assaulted by those in charge of 
protecting them.

Niya Kenny’s mother said it perfectly when she told this to WLTX: “But looking at the video, who was really disturbing schools? Was it my daughter or the officer who came into the classroom and did that to the young girl?”

Yes, the classroom should be void of distractions so students can learn. But violence, intimidation and fear certainly have no place in schools either, especially violence perpetrated by 
officials.

A simple solution the officials could have come to would have been to call the student’s parents. No physical harm, no involving other students in the classroom and no demonstrating police brutality at its finest. But it looks like Deputy Fields and the rest of the administration present didn’t think that far ahead.

If you think this is a result of one bad officer picking on a bunch of kids, you really need to reevaluate the current racial climate in this country.

The New York Times reported on a study by the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights in 2014, which found students of color were suspended more often than their white peers. Black students in particular were met with suspension or expulsion three times more than white students.

According to the Richland School District Two, where Spring Valley High School is located, 77 percent of one-time suspensions during the 2011-2012 school year were of black students, though they only comprise 59 percent of students in the county.

But please, give me more excuses and explanations of why this isn’t a problem.

I have shied away from making such a pubic claim about police brutality because my uncle is a police officer — a black police 
officer, no less.

After joining him on a ride-along during my freshman year at IU, I witnessed first hand how complex and taxing work as law enforcement can be, and that was just one day. I’m immensely proud of my uncle and the commitment he’s made to his community and our country.

However, this isn’t the time for the argument “not all cops.” We know that not all cops act like this. The problem is too many do.

We’ve witnessed too many Mike Browns, too many Sandra Blands and too many Freddie Grays.

And we’ve listened to far too many excuses by deniers that these are “individual circumstances.”

Our children shouldn’t fear their neighborhoods, their schools and their homes.

The video from the assault at Spring Valley High School is shocking, but 
sadly, it’s not surprising.

How many more will it take for you to wake up, America?

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