School Climate & Safety

Video Shows Police Officer Throwing Student From Desk; District Investigates

By Evie Blad — October 26, 2015 2 min read
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The full video of the Spring Valley High School Police Officer brutally assaulting a peaceful student. -- Shaun King (@ShaunKing) October 26, 2015


Law enforcement and school officials are investigating after students at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, S.C., recorded a school resource officer violently removing a student from her desk and dragging her across the classroom in front of her peers, NBC affiliate WIS reports.

In two videos, apparently recorded Monday, the officer can be seen entering the classroom, grabbing the student by the neck and shoulder, tipping her desk backward, and flinging her across the floor.

From WIS:

According to Sheriff Leon Lott, the school resource officer was acting in response to a student who was refusing to leave class. '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.' "

It’s unclear how the student, an African-American girl, was behaving before her classmates started filming, but she does not appear to be loud or violent in the video.

Parents’ groups are concerned, the network reports. And the video quickly spread on Twitter Monday night as journalists, activists, and civil rights groups questioned if the officer treated the student properly.

Update: The school resource officer, identified as Ben Fields, has been placed on unpaid leave by the Richland County Sheriff’s Office, which confirms two students were arrested following the incident for disturbing the peace.

Civil rights groups have long been concerned that school police officers are not always adequately trained to work with students and that schools don’t always create thoughtful agreements that limit their involvement in routine discipline. Students of color are often the target of overly harsh treatment, they say.

When leaders of the U.S. departments of education and justice issued 2014 guidance on civil rights in school discipline, they included a caution that school districts are responsible for the behavior of law enforcement officers who work in their schools through agreements, even if those officers aren’t directly employed by the district.

Update: FBI and Justice Department officials launched a civil rights probe into the student’s arrest Tuesday as civil rights groups sought to use the incident to launch larger conversations about race, safety, and the role of police in schools. Read more here.

Here is some Twitter reaction to the incident Monday:

Further reading on police in schools:

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.