“The fact that he picked the student up and he threw the student across the room — that is not a proper technique, and should not be used in law enforcement,” explained by Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott why he fired Ben Fields who threw the student at Spring Valley High School. Spring Valley High School is located in Northeast Columbia, South Carolina and is being operated by Richland County School District Two.
On October 28, 2015, Richard County Senior Deputy Officer Ben Fields was fired by Sheriff of Richland County Jail Leon Lott, two days after the incident that transpired in South Carolina on forcefully taking a student out of the classroom. Lott added, “What he should not have done is throw the student. Police officers make mistakes too. They’re human and they need to be held accountable, and that’s what we’ve done with Deputy Ben Fields.” However, Lott attempted to justify what had occurred and why Field’s action as such, with a reminder to the SC school administrators to avoid this circumstance paying forward, “We believe that Mr. Fields’ actions were justified and lawful throughout the circumstances of which he was confronted during this incident, to that extent, we believe that Mr. Fields’ actions were carried out professionally and that he was performing his job duties within the legal threshold. They (school administrators) need to understand that when they call us, we’re going to take a law enforcement action,” Lott said. “Maybe that ought to have been something handled by the school without ever calling the deputy.”
On that fateful day of arrest, Ben Fields was called by The Spring Valley High School administrator to get help in taking a female student out of the Algebra class and that the student was disrupting the class. Fields has been an SRO (School Resource Officer) for seven years prior to this incident, and putting officers in schools has been a practice by several districts across the country to help summon students who are misbehaving, due to the heinous massacre happened on fellow students back in 1999 at Combine High School, Colorado.
The forceful arrest took place after the young female student refused to comply with the deputy, which made Fields pull the student from her desk and tossed her across the classroom. This incident was captured on video and went viral on the internet right away. The said video caught the citizens’ attention and became a heated national debate over the SRO’s role in schools and the limitations on the officers’ involvement when it comes to disciplining students.
South Carolina Board of Education member, Traci Young Cooper, has made a recommendation on the classifications of misbehavior of students where officers get involved with, with the intention of clarifying and consistency of the regulations across all state schools. The recommendation is limiting the involvement of an SRO if the offense is considered a criminal act, such as a direct and serious threat to safety like assault, drug sales or gun possession. The Board has recommended having non-criminal offenses like disrupting of classes and possessing cellphone inside the classroom, to be handled appropriately by the school officers and utilize possible disciplinary actions available under the school rules and regulations, like after class detention, demerits, or expulsion if necessary.
Fast forward to September 2, 2016, Richard County Solicitor Dan Johnson has stated that after the investigation, Ben Fields may have been fired from his SRO service, but he will not be charged criminally, with his 12-page report released on that day.4 Johnson stated in his report that there is no probable cause found to charge Ben Fields criminally in connection to the incident in Columbia. This decision was released after a thorough investigation conducted and interview of 15 witnesses, in which a majority stating that what Fields had done was appropriate.
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