By now there is nationwide outrage over recent video footage of a school resource officer at a Columbia, South Carolina high school who appeared to fling a girl like a rag doll in a fit of rage during class. The girl’s school desk becomes a cage as she is stuck in her desk getting flung from one side and tossed across the room. The SRO then sits on her body.
There is also current baiting and nitpicking over whether the girl may have hit the officer during what the media calls an “altercation.” Is that the case people really want to make considering that this incident literally could take place at any school – and schools are supposed to have a zero-tolerance policy for violence? It looks more like hands flailing in the opinion of this writer – and commenters are increasingly pointing that out.
This strange logic, of course, insinuates that there was an organic two-way fight and that a female student deserves the kind of force normally reserved for domestic abuse, combat training or extreme cases of adult-to-adult self-defense. It implies that so much as an involuntary tap from a teen girl somehow made the first flinging rampage okay.
The other two angles actually make the incident look much worse:
What “crime” committed could ever justify such a clear act of violence? According to a Sheriff, the “disruptive student refused to leave” after a teacher told her to. This writer is not in anyway defending bad behavior toward stressed out teachers, but this writer has accidentally witnessed instances where teachers and even principals call officers for the most minor instances of student defiance – sometimes escalating the instance into an arrest with handcuffs. In the past, physical discipline has ended in tragic results such as brain injury. It only sets a criminal example for how to resolve conflicts.
The same Sheriff is blaming the girl for “starting it” – implying that if she had only behaved, she wouldn’t face physical harm. It says nothing of the extreme actions of the SRO. This attitude of trying to somehow justify physical abuse is reminiscent of the deputy who clearly implied that if women didn’t want to get raped by police they should follow the law and not get pulled over.
School resource officers are hired from local departments to work at schools and they have recently come under scrutiny for using brutal force and Skinner-esque corporal punishment tactics on children as young as elementary school age. Recent incidents highlight the utter lack of training and oversight of letting officers look for criminal trouble wherever they can find or manufacture it during school hours.
While an internal investigation should be wrapped up by tomorrow most likely bending our perception to think of what we saw as “justified” and “no wrongdoing” – they have strangely turned against the girl who originally filmed the incident. Or maybe not – the officer is on administrative leave and any further disciplinary actions (not involving physical harm) will be revealed shortly.
WLTX 19 reports on how the student who filmed the event was also arrested:
Niya Kenny, 18, is speaking out after she was taken into custody in her Spring Valley High School math class. She says she was standing up for her classmate who was being arrested by Student Resource Officer Ben Fields.
“I was crying, screaming and crying like a baby,” says Kenny. “I was in disbelief.”
“I know this girl don’t got nobody and I couldn’t believe this was happening,” Kenny explained. “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″.”
Kenny was charged with “disturbing schools.” Her mother remarked:
But looking at the video, who was really disturbing schools? Was it my daughter or the officer who came in to the classroom and did that to the young girl?
In this recent explosive episode, the officer is drawing both ire and defensiveness for the blue line. But how would people feel to find out that this same officer overseeing students also once emptied a can of pepper spray on a U.S. veteran?
The Columbia FBI Field Office, the Civil Rights Division, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina have opened a civil rights investigation into the event.
It is time to stop the mental acrobatics, the nitpicking and the internal investigations and realize that some SROs have no business working with children. Only one state has been known to enact training. It is certainly not the time to punish the student who may have gotten the only piece of credible evidence for a potentially tragic incident. It is no wonder that people continue to point fingers at the school-to-prison pipeline.