COLUMBIA, SC (AP) — The Justice Department says it has opened a federal civil rights investigation after a South Carolina school resource officer was captured on video pulling a female high school student from her desk and dragging her across a classroom.
Justice Department spokeswoman Dena Iverson said the investigation will look into “the circumstances surrounding the arrest” and determine if a federal law was broken. Officials said the confrontation at Spring Valley High School in Columbia occurred Monday after the student refused the officer’s order to leave the classroom for being disruptive.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott says a disruptive student refused to leave after the teacher asked her to exit the room. An administrator was called and asked the student to leave, when she refused, a school resource officer was called. When the student again refused, the Sheriff says the officer forcefully removed the student as she resisted arrest.
Richland County Sheriff’s Department identified the school resource officer in the video as Deputy Ben Fields and reports that Fields will be placed on administrative duties during the investigation.
A student who was in a math class when another female student was dragged out of her chair by an officer says that she was arrested for screaming and praying out loud. Video shows Fields asking the student to move and then grabbing her while she is still seated and tossing her out of her desk and chair.
The Rev. Jesse Jackson says a video that shows an officer pulling a female high school student from her desk and dragging her across a classroom is a “national disgrace.”
Jackson told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he thinks the officer involved should face charges and lose his job. The officer is white, and the student is black. Authorities have said they do not believe race was a factor, but Jackson says the incident represents a pattern of unfair behavior against blacks.
Richland School District Two Superintendent Dr. Debbie Hamm issued a statement saying the district is “deeply concerned about the incident that occured at Spring Valley High School.”
The entire statement from Dr. Hamm:
“Our District is deeply concerned about an incident that occurred at Spring Valley High School today. The incident took place between a school resource officer employed by the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and a student. Video of the incident is circulating on social media.
Student safety is and always will be the District’s top priority. The District will not tolerate any actions that jeopardize the safety of our students.
Upon learning of the incident, school and district administrators began an investigation. We are working closely and in full cooperation with the Richland County Sheriff’s Department to conduct a thorough and complete investigation.
Pending the outcome of the investigation, the District has directed that the school resource officer not return to any school in the District.”
The federal probe will include the FBI, the Justice Department’s civil rights division and the U.S. attorney’s office in South Carolina.