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DOJ OPENS CIVIL RIGHTS PROBE INTO S.C. CLASSROOM ARREST

Adam Lee Nemann
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Trial and Defense Attorney, Adjunct Professor of Law at Capital University, founder of Nemann Law Offices

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10/27/2015
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The Department of Justice announced Tuesday it had launched an investigation into possible civil rights violations of a violent arrest in a South Carolina classroom that was caught on video and his since gone viral.

In a statement, the FBI field office in South Carolina said they "will collect all available facts and evidence in order to determine whether a federal law was violated."

The school resource officer involved in the incident, Ben Fields, has been placed on leave after his boss asked the feds to investigate the incident in which he flipped a black female high school student from her desk to the floor and either dragged or tossed her across a classroom.

https://youtu.be/oixK4amVzEQ

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said by telephone Tuesday: "It's very disturbing what happened today. It's something I have to deal with and that's what we're going to be doing."

No one was hurt in Monday's confrontation, which authorities and some witnesses said happened after the disruptive student refused the officer's order to leave the classroom. The incident was captured on cellphones by several students, one of whom, Tony Robinson Jr., told CBS affiliate WLTX in Columbia it all started when the girl pulled out her cellphone and refused her math teacher's attempt to take it away during class.

During the moments captured on video and posted online, Fields can be seen standing over the girl, asking her to stand up. The girl remains seated and the officer wraps a forearm around her neck. The desk then flips and the girl is slammed backward onto the floor, where the officer tosses her toward the front of the classroom and handcuffs her. A second student who verbally objected to the girl's treatment also was arrested.

Both girls were charged with disturbing schools and released to their parents. Their names were not released, but the second student, Niya Kenny, told WLTXthat Deputy Fields' use of force shocked her.

Niya Kenny, 18, told CBS affiliate WLTX in Columbia, "I was screaming, 'What the f, what the f is this really happening?' I was praying out loud for the girl. I just couldn't believe this was happening I was just crying and he said, 'Since you have so much to say, you are coming, too.' I just put my hands behind my back."

Kenny was charged with disturbing schools, the station reports.

Her mother, Doris Kenny, asked, "Who was really disturbing schools? Was it my daughter or the officer who came in to the classroom and did that to the young girl?"

Her mother, Doris Kenny, said she's proud her daughter was "brave enough to speak out against what was going on."

Robinson Jr. said the incident made him afraid for his life.

"I've never seen anything so nasty looking, so sick to the point that you know, other students are turning away, don't know what to do, and are just scared for their lives," he said. "That's supposed to be somebody that's going to protect us. Not somebody that we need to be scare off, or afraid."

"That was wrong. There was no justifiable reason for why he did that to that girl," Robinson added.

Robinson claimed Officer Fields escalated the incident unnecessarily. At first, Robinson said he told the girl, "you will move, you will move."

"She said, 'No, I have not done anything wrong," according to Robinson. "Then he said, 'I'm going to treat you fairly.' And she said, 'I don't even know who you are.' And that is where it started right there."

Moments later, things turned physical.

After watching the video, Sheriff Lott said, he was left asking, "Why?"

"I shake my head and just say ... I ask why, and that's what I want to know. I want to know why something like that happened," he said.

Executive Director of the ACLU of South Carolina Victoria Middleton told CBS News that oversight of police in schools is a question, and called it anything but a "one-off" incident in the state.

"We need to ask questions about how discipline is being enforced in all our schools statewide," Middleton said. "We're really criminalizing childhood behavior.

 



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