A white South Carolina police officer has been placed on administrative leave after cellphone video emerged on social media where he appears to violently slam a black female student to the ground and drag her across the classroom.
Spring Valley High School officials and Richland County sheriff’s deputies are investigating the incident between the young female student and Deputy Ben Fields, the school’s resource officer.
The video appears to show the officer approaching the girl sitting at a desk in a classroom. The officer the grabs the girl’s arm while putting his own arm around the student’s neck. He then slams her to the ground, before being dragging her and placing her under arrest.
Police said the school resource officer — an official assigned to schools to provide security — had become involved after the student was asked to leave the classroom because she was being “disruptive.” She refused to do so and was then placed under arrest for refusing to leave the class.
During a press conference Monday night, Richland County Deputy Curtis Wilson announced that Deputy Fields was placed on administrative duties pending the results of an investigation. Deputy Wilson spoke on behalf of County Sheriff Leon Lott who was in Chicago attending a law enforcement conference. The sheriff said he was “very disturbed” after seeing the video and would be cutting his trip short and returning immediately to question the officer.
Deputy Wilson also confirmed that a second student was arrested after attempting to stand up to the officer who violently slammed her classmate.
Student Niya Kenny, 18, told WLXT that she was in “disbelief” and “crying like a baby” during the incident.
“I know this girl don’t got nobody and I couldn’t believe this was happening. I had never seen nothing like that in my life, a man use that much force on a little girl,” she said of the encounter. “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″.”
The student told local media that the incident started when their teacher called the officer when the young girl chose not to participate in class. The teacher then asked her to leave the classroom, when she refused, the officer was called into the room.
Doris Kenny, the teen’s mother, said that she was proud of her daughter’s bravery to stand up to the officer.
“My child, and I’m not mad at her, she was brave enough to speak out against what was going on and didn’t back down and it resulted in her being arrested,” she said.
Parents of students at Spring Valley High School have already begun reacting to the video. In a statement, the Richland Two Black Parents Association called the video “egregious” and “unacceptable.”
“Parents are heartbroken as this is just another example of the intolerance that continues to be of issue in Richland School District Two particularly with families and children of color,” the statement said. “As we have stated in the past, we stand ready to work in collaboration to address these horrible acts of violence and inequities among our children.”
Spring Valley High School is grades 9-12 with 2,010 students enrolled. According to the school’s brochure, 52 percent of students are African-American and 30 percent of students are white.