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When is Enough, Enough?

WEST LONG BRANCH, N.J.–Can you imagine being tossed out of your desk for having a cell phone in class? While this may sound ridiculous, if not barbaric, it is the unfortunate reality for a female African American high school student in South Carolina.
It all started when the 16-year-old Spring Valley High School student refused to put away her cell phone when her math teacher insisted. After that, the teacher asked her to leave, and the girl refused that request too. The math teacher called for a resource officer to escort her out of the classroom. Officer Ben Fields entered the classroom and threw her and her desk to the ground. He tossed her through the classroom, finally making an arrest. In the video seen ’round the world, the officer is seen dragging the girl across the classroom as fellow classmates look on in shock.
Fields was fired this past Wednesday for his actions towards the student.

When does sitting in a classroom become unsafe? Photo courtesy of Rebecca Gaona
When does sitting in a classroom become unsafe? Photo courtesy of Rebecca Gaona

According to School Safety Net, there is a set of rules that a School Resource Officer needs abide by, including ones that require him or her to “initiate interaction with students in the classroom and general areas of the school building[,] promote the profession of police officer and be a positive role model[, and] increase the visibility and accessibility of police to the school community.”
Although Fields felt like he took the proper route to handle the situation at the time, many are calling him a perpetrator of police brutality. Based on comments on the video on several sites, it seems a majority think it was extremely inappropriate for the circumstances.
On the other hand, it goes without saying that the student should have not refused multiple times to put her phone away. She was creating a disturbance–a crime in schools. Although Officer Fields may have had the intent to protect the students in Spring Valley High School from this “crime,” that was not the result. Instead, he created an even bigger disturbance by resorting to violence and frightening the girl’s classmates with the display of force.
According to the Huffington Post, “in recent years, the number of police officers based in schools has ballooned amid tragedies like the 1999 Columbine High School massacre and the 2012 shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.” Without the amenity of police officers in schools, there would likely be more crime and violence. Police officers are stationed there to protect and serve, yet officers like Fields come out and do the opposite.
Taking the initiative across America to get proper training for police officers in different situations is the basis of this specific problem. There have been multiple situations resulting in students getting injured or assaulted by their schools’ resource officers.
Some resource officers even turn to pepper spray as a way to handle their situations. The Huffington Post explains that “schools can spray students who are actively engaged in a physical fight or other violent behavior…[but] students have been sprayed for as little as verbal defiance.”
The 16-year-old girl at Spring Valley High School was not using any physical force or violence to any of her classmates or teacher, but the officer still used excessive force on her. Continuously, officers tend to cross the line, when in reality the force does not need to be used.
Fortunately, no one was severely hurt as a result of Officer Fields’ actions. But if things like this keep happening, eventually someone will.