What has happened to R-E-S-P-E-C-T?

Rebecca Voorhees, Staff Writer

Just a few weeks ago, alarming videos from Spring Valley High School of South Carolina shocked the nation.

A black female student was shown being flipped out of her desk by a white male officer. Some reports say she refused to leave class and was disturbing the peace. Others say that she was using her cell phone, or simply chewing gum during class.

Regardless of these speculations, audiences and the criminal justice system are wondering if the student’s behavior warranted the officer’s response.

In one video, it is very clear that the officer takes time to speak to the student and attempts to take her by the arm. She did not get up and the officer immediately placed her into a hold by the neck.

During the struggle, she punches the officer several times and he flips her over along with the desk she was seated in. The officer then appears to forcefully throw her across the floor, restrained her against the ground and cuffed the student in front of her peers. Another video just shows the officer taking action without the verbal mediation beforehand.

The officer was identified by students as Deputy Ben Fields, but the student’s name was not revealed. Once the videos had gone viral, local authorities began an investigation and Officer Fields was fired within 48 hours. Dr. Debbie Hamm, the superintendent of Richland County School District, released a statement to the Huffington Post.

“The district will not tolerate any actions that jeopardize the safety of our students. Pending the outcome of the investigation, the district has directed that the school resource officer not return to any school in the district. Student safety is and always will be the district’s top priority.”

It is relieving to hear that the school district has taken charge of the alleged assault, but how does the rest of the nation see it?

Was this incident only about race?

I believe the severity of the situation would remain the same, no matter the student’s race.

There appears to be some evidence of brutality in the video, but Deputy Fields may have only taken professional measures to dismiss the student. She disregarded his first approach and then resisted upon physical contact.

The chair she was sitting in was clearly attached to the desk, and that kind of desk requires extra effort to get out of. When Deputy Fields attempted to lift the student from the seat, her legs remained tucked under the desk, also explaining why she flipped over.

I am not excusing Deputy Fields of his actions, I am merely pointing out an observation made through the video. Although it was his duty to remove the student from her seat, throwing her across the floor was unnecessary and that was undoubtedly a display of excessive force. Fortunately, there was no report of injury to the student.

The real problem with this incident is a lack of respect from both parties. The student should have followed the directions from her teacher and administrators as they were given to her.

It was her choice to be defiant and ignorant that invited the police into the situation. Deputy Fields was fulfilling his obligations as an officer, but physically removing the student with such force was inappropriate, especially in a learning environment.

Perhaps there was a better way of removing her from the classroom, but what was done is done.