By Rachel Popa
Recently, a 16-year-old girl’s violent arrest at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina sparked both debate and outrage after it was caught on video and the evidence went viral. Some argue that since the girl was not complying with the teacher, she deserved to be taken from the classroom by force.
According to the authorities involved with the case, the student refused to put away her cell phone, prompting the teacher to call Senior Deputy Ben Fields, a school resource officer, to the classroom. He then put the student in a chokehold, pulled her from her seat and threw her across the room.
Some say that such behavior starts at home, and that her parents should have taught her to to know better than to disrespect a teacher.
However, according to the girl’s attorney, Todd Rutherford, the girl is a recent orphan living in foster care. Rutherford has also said that the girl suffered neck injuries due to the arrest, and has a cast on her arm.
What should not be focused on is the context of this girl’s arrest. Instead, what should be focused on is the fact that a 16-year-old girl was thrown across a room by an older male police officer who had no reason to use that kind of excessive force with a nonviolent citizen.
Imagine if professors here at Roosevelt called the cops every time a student was on their phone during class; students would be arrested in droves every day of the week.
There are other methods of discipline that are more appropriate than having a girl thrown across a classroom for being on her phone. After viewing the video, the action taken as a result of this girl’s behavior does not even seem disciplinary, but rather plain barbaric, cruel and uncalled for.
Another student at Spring Valley High School, Niya Kenny, was arrested for standing up for her classmate and speaking out against what officer Rutherford did.
What this arrest brings to light is the increasing phenomenon of criminalizing common and nonviolent behaviors of minority students, which perpetuates the school-to-prison pipeline.
“The video from Spring Valley High shows the danger we put kids into when we treat them like criminals instead,” said Gina Womack, executive director of Families and Friends of Louisiana’s Incarcerated Children in an op-ed for a New Orleans paper. “This is not an isolated act by one violent man. This is systemic.”
Officer Fields has since been fired from his position as a resource officer a at Spring Valley High School. Schools should move forward in light of this incident to make schools safe and conducive to what their purpose is. Schools should be places of learning, not violence.