Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott announced Wednesday afternoon that the officer who flipped a teenage girl over and dragged her out of her classroom had been fired, but emphasized that the student who was thrown across the room was also to blame.
“We must not lose sight that this whole incident started by this student,” Lott told reporters at a press conference. “She is responsible for initiating this action.”
Students say the girl was being quiet but was playing on her phone. When the teacher told her to leave the class, she refused and continued to use her phone. Lott called her a “very disruptive” student because she “wasn’t following the instructions from the teacher.”
Though Lott said his department was taking responsibility for Deputy Ben Fields’ actions, he repeated that the student “needs to be held responsible for what she did.”
Lott pointed out that the teachers supported Fields’ actions even if the students were upset. “What Deputy Fields did didn’t excuse them for what they did,” the sheriff said of the students. “He did wrong. They did wrong also.”
“You saw other students that sat there. They were what students are supposed to be — well-disciplined,” Lott said.
According to students, the school resource officer was nicknamed “Officer Slam.” In general, school resource officers contribute little to school safety while worsening the school-to-prison pipeline. Students are much more likely to be arrested for minor disciplinary issues and have even been choked and maced for misbehaving in the classroom. Black and brown students tend to face disciplinary action more often than their white peers.