Stupid, Wrong, and Completely Unnecessary: Officer Slams Student to the Ground in SC High School
Folks, over the past twenty-four hours, there has been much talk about an arrest by police officer Ben Fields of a high school student at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina. (If you haven’t read anything about it, this article from Reuters via Yahoo News should get you up to speed.)
There’s even been a video released, showing Officer Fields slamming a young, black female student to the ground while still sitting at a desk.
I’m not going to link to this video, because I find it incredibly disturbing. But I will tell you what I think about Officer Fields’ conduct.
It was stupid. It was wrong. And it was completely unnecessary.
Here’s what I know about this incident, courtesy of watching CNN, FoxNews and MSNBC.
The female student, a senior, was sitting at her desk and refused to pay attention. The teacher apparently called a vice principal into the classroom, to try to get this young woman to pay attention. When she ignored the principal, the principal called in Officer Fields.
I already have problems with this, mind, as a former teacher.
What would I have done, as a teacher? First, I’d try to remove the other students — either before I called the vice principal, or with the help of the vice principal. The reason I’d do that, is because the students need to have a good learning experience; being disruptive is not conducive to learning.
(There is almost always someplace you can go. If the weather is clement, you can go outside. If it isn’t, you can go to the school library, the gymnasium, or even the lunch room.)
Second, I’d have asked the principal to call the student’s parent or guardian.
But instead of doing any of that, the teacher stood there while the vice principal called in Officer Fields. And Fields slammed the young woman to the ground, while still in the desk…the teacher did nothing, the vice principal did nothing, and most of the students did nothing while this happened. (One other female student spoke up, and was also arrested, according to various reports.)
At any rate, because the school personnel didn’t know what to do with the student, they called in Officer Fields, which should’ve been a last resort.
Multiple mistakes were made before Officer Fields ever got there, but Officer Fields’ conduct as shown on the video made things worse.
Officer Fields apparently did not use his mind. Instead, he slammed this young student to the ground, while still inside her desk, and arrested her.
Look. This should go without saying — but here goes:
No one — a police officer nor any other — should never, never, never slam a high school student to the ground while she’s sitting in class over a verbal disagreement.
The best solution, again, is to isolate the student. Then wait for the parent or guardian to show up and discuss the behavior.
Then, to try to bring some resolution to this incident, I’d use the principles of restorative justice. I’d find a way to show that student just how disruptive it is to have someone mouthing off during class time — asking other students to act out how this student behaved might help, for example — and then I’d find a way to have that student make it up to the other students in that class.
You see, retributive justice — what we usually see in the United States — did not work, here. The officer surely seems to have used wildly excessive force on this young, female student. This did not help the student realize what she did was wrong; instead, it gave her a consequence — getting slammed to the ground while still inside a desk — that was extremely disproportionate to her action.
Over time, the student here probably will get upset at what happened to her (something that makes perfect sense), rather than realizing she cannot be disruptive in class. Even if she gets expelled, down the line, for her previous disruptive actions, she still may not understand the problems her original behavior caused for the rest of the class.
Anyway, my thought is that restorative justice would’ve helped a great deal, here, along with a dose of good, common sense.
What a shame none of that existed, here…instead, now we’re assuredly looking at a lawsuit by the student and her family, and another police officer who may lose his job.
How does that help anything?
Most of all, how does that help anyone learn?