COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina’s education superintendent says she is “greatly concerned” by videos showing an officer tossing a female student out of her desk during an arrest.
Molly Spearman said in a statement Tuesday that she has talked to local, state and federal authorities about the violent confrontation between the student and a school resource officer at Spring Valley High School.
The FBI and Justice are investigating and Senior Deputy Ben Fields is on leave. Videos shot by students show Fields removing from her desk after she refuses to get up.
Spearman says school districts contract with hundreds of school resource officers who work to protect students. She says it’s vital that students have respect for law enforcement, but also equally important that law enforcement ensure they do not abuse the power and trust school districts instill in them.
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.
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.
Niya Kenny told WLTX-TV that she couldn’t believe that Student Resource Office Ben Fields used that much force on her classmate. 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 18-year-old Kenny says she started crying and screaming and someone said since she had so much to say, she would also be arrested.
She was charged with disturbing schools.
Her mother, Doris Kenny, told the TV station she was shocked and upset when she saw the video. She says she is not mad at her daughter because she was “brave enough to speak out against what was going on.”
The officer was placed on leave after video surfaced.
The county sheriff’s office had requested a federal investigation.
The federal probe will include the FBI, the Justice Department’s civil rights division and the U.S. attorney’s office in South Carolina.
The NAACP and a local school district held separate news conferences to address the media Tuesday after the video was shared widely Monday evening.