About 100 students from Spring Valley High School in South Carolina walked out of their classes on Friday, offering measured support to former school resource officer Ben Fields, who was fired after violently dragging a black female student from her desk.
Videos and photos posted on social media shows that the peaceful rally, which occurred around 10 a.m in the school’s atrium, was racially diverse. Some students wore T-shirts reading “Free Fields” and “#BringBackField.”
In a captured video of the protest, Principal Jeff Temoney told the students none of them would be reprimanded for protesting if they returned to class.
“We’ve heard your voices, okay,” said Temoney. “We appreciate you taking time to do this, but again, as you know, we always focus on teaching and learning, so let’s head on back to class.”
John Cassibry, a 17-year-old senior, who participated in the protest, told The Huffington Post that even though he did not agree with Fields’ conduct in the student arrest, the officer don’t deserved to be fired.
“I believe it is important as a student to voice my opinion,” Cassibry said. “My belief on Deputy Fields is just that – I do believe he was too aggressive, but I do not believe it was any circumstance to lose his job, nor do I believe it was race-driven.”
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott announced the firing of Fields at a press conference on Wednesday. He said the decision came after an internal investigation over the Monday incident, which focused on whether the officer had violated the department’s policies. The probe concluded that the maneuvers Fields used in the confrontation were “not acceptable.”
“From the very beginning that’s what’s caused me to be upset, and continued to upset me is that he picked the student up and threw the student across the room,” Lott said.
Police said the unidentified female student became disruptive in class and was texting on her phone. The teacher asked her to leave and she fused so Fields was called in. A cell phone video taken by another student showed the officer standing before the girl, commanding her to stand and her refusing. Fields was then seen flipping the girl over in her chair and dragging her across the room.
The girl was later arrested along with a second student who police say was also “contributing to the chaos.”
On Tuesday, Lott said the student “may have had a rug burn.” Her attorney said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” Wednesday that she “has a cast on her arm, she has neck and back injuries.”
Asked if race was a factor in the case, Lott said Tuesday that he didn’t believe so because Fields, who is white, has been dating an African-American woman for “quite some time.”
Fields was suspended without pay before he was fired. The FBI and the Justice Department have launched separate investigations to determine if any federal laws were violated.
The altercation come on the heels of growing concern about the use of police force, in wake of the several unarmed black men and women who died during altercation with police.
Debbie Hamm, the school’s superintendent, said the district is strengthening its training efforts with school resource officers that would ensure such incident doesn’t happen again.