Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Violent School Arrest Shows Weakness

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Violent School Arrest Shows Weakness

Article excerpt

The most striking thing about the violent classroom arrest of a student at Spring Valley High School in Richland County, S.C., this week is the silence in the video.

The 16-year-old girl who recently lost her mother and grandmother and is living in foster care said nothing even as she resisted Senior Deputy Ben Fields. The teenager did not scream as she was flipped from her chair, dragged across the floor and handcuffed.

The math teacher, a tall, well-groomed black man and presumably the one who summoned Mr. Fields to his class to deal with the girl's disruptive behavior (she was either talking on or playing with her cell phone), said nothing while his student was manhandled. His highest priority was to restore order and remove a non-compliant student, so he counted on Mr. Fields to provide the muscle.

The girl's classmates, who surreptitiously filmed the encounter, were also quiet. You don't hear the usual chatter or commentary that often provides the soundtrack to viral videos of police violence. After all, the girl who was dragged across the room was being arrested for having her phone out. No one was in a hurry to be next.

In fact, one is struck by how well-behaved and compliant everyone is in the presence of what appears to be state-sanctioned violence against a teenager bearing nothing more threatening than a cell phone and a bad attitude.

It is as if everyone long ago accepted the proposition that violence against children, especially black children, is normal. That classroom was just another space where there was nothing inherently bizarre or shameful about a large, adult male cop thrashing a teenage girl whose emotional problems should have been well-known to the school hierarchy.

When fielding questions from the press about Mr. Fields, who was initially suspended without pay, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott dismissed the theory that racial bias played any part in such a violent arrest. He suggested that because Mr. Fields is dating a black woman, he'd be unlikely to harbor racial animus. Still, he fired Mr. Fields on Wednesday for failing to follow procedure during the arrest. …

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