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California NAACP takes stand on limiting role of School Resource Officers #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh

You have probably seen the video— a South Carolina School Resource Officer (a fancy name for a cop patrolling a school) bodyslams a Black female high school student while she is sitting in her desk, then he proceeds to throw her across the room.

MSNBC reported,

A cell phone video shot inside a South Carolina high school Monday appeared to show a police officer body-slamming a female student and dragging her across a classroom.

The confrontation, at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina, has drawn intense criticism on social media, from the school district’s Black Parents Association — the student is African-American — and the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina, which called the deputy’s actions “egregious.”

“There is no justification whatsoever for treating a child like this,” the ACLU said in a statement.

In a news conference, a spokesman for the Richland County Sheriff’s Department, Curtis Wilson, identified the officer in the video as Ben Fields.

The sheriff, Leon Lott, was out of town, Wilson said, but had watched the video and was “disturbed.”

The department and its internal affairs division were investigating the incident, Wilson said, and Fields had been placed on administrative leave.

Earlier Monday, Lott told NBC affiliate WIS that the student was disrupting class and “refused to comply” with the officer’s direction. “When she refused,” Lott said, the officer “was requested to take action.”

Request to take action by whom? You are telling me that there wasn’t an adult in the room or the school had the human decency and skill set to diffuse the situation without a violent assault on a child? Also, it also appears that the teacher or administrator in the White shirt and tie looking on while the assault is happening is Black.

She was told that she was under arrest, but again refused to follow orders, Lott told the station. “The video then shows the student resisting and being arrested.”

In a statement, school district superintendent Debbie Hamm said the district “is deeply concerned” about the confrontation.

“Student safety is and always will be the District’s top priority,” Hamm said. “The District will not tolerate any actions that jeopardize the safety of our students.”

Hamm added that the district is working “closely” with the sheriff’s department to “conduct a thorough and complete investigation.”

“Pending the outcome of the investigation, the District has directed that the school resource officer not return to any school in the District,” Hamm said.

In a statement, the Richland Black Parents Association said they were “heartbroken as this is just another example of the intolerance that continues to be of issue in Richland School District Two particularly with families and children of color.”

While South Carolina is a flashpoint example of a violent assault on a black child, it is an issue that clearly needs to be addressed nationwide.

California NAACP acknowledged SROs as a problem before this happened in South Carolina on Monday. We passed a resolution on SROs on Sunday. At the 2015 California NAACP conference, the membership took a stand on this issue. I have pasted a draft of the resolution pending receiving the final passed form.

California NAACP Seeks to Address Disparate School Discipline & Limit Role of School Resource Officers (Draft)

WHEREAS, the NAACP acknowledges the existence of a damaging and harmful pipeline in the American system of education that disproportionately targets African Americans and other youth of color and ultimately sets them on a path to confinement and incarceration;

WHEREAS, in 2011 – 2012, 3.5 million students were suspended out of school – nearly 95% of these suspensions were for non-violent offenses;[i]

WHEREAS, students of color are suspended at a higher rate than their white counterparts – African Americans particularly are more than three times more likely than their white peers to be suspended or expelled;[ii]

WHEREAS, the Department of Education has recognized that harsh zero-tolerance policies in school discipline guidelines have led to racial discrimination that must be addresses;[iii]

WHEREAS, there is a need to ensure safety and order in schools, but too many schools have for too long resorted to suspension, expulsion, and arrest to deal with problems that should and could be handled more constructively;

WHEREAS, the Department of Education has issued guidelines on school discipline that aim to move away from harsh and discriminatory zero tolerance policies;

WHEREAS, School Resource Officer (SRO’s) are essentially armed police officers that are present on campuses throughout schools in America (more than 10,000 officers nationwide), and are often given too much authority and power to enforce zero tolerance policies and conduct routine disciplinary measures that should be handled by school officials and parents – often leading to the contact of more youth at younger ages with the juvenile and criminal justice system;

WHEREAS, the Department of Justice in 2015 filed a settlement of interest in S.R. & L.G. v. Kenton County et. al. that can have national implications for guidelines and protocols for youth contact with SRO’s (though the settlement was issued for a case in Kentucky it can be used as a model to curb the authority of SRO’s on school campuses across the country);[iv]

WHEREAS, the NAACP does not promote or condone the use of SRO’s to conduct routine discipline in schools but recognizes the need to create solid guidelines for how they come in contact with youth;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the NAACP will utilize the Department of Education’s “Guiding Principles: A Resource Guide for Improving School Climate and Discipline” in order to end zero tolerance policies and implement discipline systems that promote the positive development and learning process for all youth in a healthy and positive school environment;[v]

BE IT ALSO RESOLVED, that the NAACP will work to implement the protocols set forth by the Department of Justice for SRO’s, including delineating the specific roles of SRO’s, requiring special trainings, focused on preventing SRO’s from enforcing school codes of conduct or engaging in routine discipline of students, and only focusing on preventing and dealing with serious and real immediate threats to safety;

BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED, that the NAACP will continue to promote a stronger public education system and discipline protocols that will ultimately eliminate the need for the regular use of any SRO’s on school campuses.

In a recent interview, Democratic president candidate Martin O’Malley said he would have gone “ballistic” if that would have been his kid. Exactly. The current information is that she was chewing gum in class (Update 10/27: Now they are saying she might have had a cell phone). Regardless, is there anything that your young child could have done to deserve that assault? Please feel free to use this language in your community to address the very serious issue of SROs in our schools.

See also Justice in action: How we can address the school-to-prison pipeline

Please Facebook Like, Tweet, etc below and/or reblog to share this discussion with others.

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Twitter: @ProfessorJVH

Click here for Vitae.

p.s. Thanks to @NiazKazravi for authoring the SRO resolution.

p.s.s If I was a student in that classroom, I would be in custody this evening too.

[i] https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/holder-duncan-announce-national-guidelines-on-school-discipline/2014/01/08/436c5a5e-7899-11e3-8963-b4b654bcc9b2_story.html

[ii] https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/holder-duncan-announce-national-guidelines-on-school-discipline/2014/01/08/436c5a5e-7899-11e3-8963-b4b654bcc9b2_story.html

[iii] https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/holder-duncan-announce-national-guidelines-on-school-discipline/2014/01/08/436c5a5e-7899-11e3-8963-b4b654bcc9b2_story.html

[iv] http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/department-justice-files-statement-interest-kentucky-school-handcuffing-case

[v] http://www2.ed.gov/policy/gen/guid/school-discipline/guiding-principles.pdf

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About Dr. Julian Vasquez Heilig (668 Articles)
Julian Vasquez Heilig is an award-winning researcher and teacher. He is currently a Professor of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies and the Director of the Doctorate in Educational Leadership at California State Sacramento.

1 Comment on California NAACP takes stand on limiting role of School Resource Officers #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh

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  1. Authority, Discipline, and the Marginalization of Youth in Schools #EdResearch4SpringValley – Cloaking Inequity

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