Get Schooled

Your source to discuss and learn about education in Georgia and the nation and share opinions and news with Maureen Downey

Remember South Carolina deputy who slammed student? No charges.

Many people were likely surprised to learn the South Carolina deputy caught on cellphone video slamming a student to the ground last year will not face charges, in part because the students and educators at Spring Valley High School who witnessed the incident firsthand apparently saw something different from outraged viewers.

Some of that outrage was fed by a student's comment that Deputy Ben Fields had a reputation at the Columbia high school as “Officer Slam." The student admitted making up that story. In fact, students at the high school walked out in protest after Fields was fired two days after the incident.

In announcing his decision not to move forward, 5th Circuit solicitor Dan Johnson told the Columbia, S.C., State newspaper that any prosecution was compromised by Fields’ quick firing.

This is from the State. (You can read the full account here.)

Students and educators who watched a Richland County deputy manhandle and arrest a disruptive Spring Valley High School student last fall tended to side with the officer, though some say he could have handled the tense situation better. That’s the portrayal from 14 eyewitnesses and the student’s guardian that emerges from an 11-page investigative summary released Friday of the case that, because of students’ videos, shook the Midlands and focused national attention on the role of school resource officers.

Neither fired white deputy Ben Fields nor the two African-American students charged with disrupting school will be prosecuted, 5th Circuit solicitor Dan Johnson announced after reviewing FBI and State Law Enforcement Division investigations. Johnson said there wasn’t enough evidence to proceed with charges.

 On Oct. 26, Fields was called into the algebra class where a student refused to put away her mobile phone or leave the classroom when instructed to repeatedly by the teacher and a school administrator. She told one school official, “Get out of my face.” Johnson’s report includes witnesses saying she hit Fields and locked her foot around the leg of her desk to avoid being pulled from it.An observer identified in the report as “Witness Six” told investigators that to not have removed the student would have sent a message that “it was OK to disobey teachers and authority. “(S)he wanted to prove that she was bad,” the witness said.

Reader Comments ...

About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.