Police presence on campus should protect, not punish

November 10, 2015

As more and more videos circulate on social media exposing the brutality of police officers, many citizens have questioned their safety at the hands of those on the thin blue line.

Normally, we’d associate the presence of police officers with safety, yet the outrage of activists online has announced a widespread distrust. With the recent upload of the video that captured Ben Fields, a school resource officer, grabbing and dragging an African American student across the floor of her classroom at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina, even students now question their well-being in institutions that promise a safe learning environment.


The incident was caught on a cellphone video (YouTube upload by Reginald Seabrooks):


I keep up with “social justice Twitter” — the community of social activists who speak out against injustices and where movements like #BlackLivesMatter gained popularity— where I have seen the disgust many people across the nation expressed in regards to this video:


Some even tweeted that cops do not belong in schools: 

I simply cannot agree with that statement. Living in Stockton, the possibility of danger invading a school campus has always kept administrators on their toes. I’ve lived through countless lockdowns because threats of bombs, shootings and invasion have disrupted both my elementary and high schools. Like Spring Valley High School — a campus of about 2,000 students that is about 52 percent black and 30 percent white, according to The New York Times — Stagg is 52 percent Hispanic/Latino, 15 percent white and 14 percent black, according to 2011-2012 school year figures from the California Longitudinal Pupil Achievement Data System.

Unfortunately, gangs terrorize Stockton, and many students are affiliated with them. Fights break out here as a common occurrence; in fact, one just happened on Oct. 27. We have campus security monitors who patrol the school and stop violence as soon as it breaks out. I wouldn’t want to walk the halls of my campus if there weren’t security guards or police officers on standby, in case my safety was endangered.

I’ve sat through many incidents of a student being suspended from class due to their behavior, not cooperating with teachers, and being disrespectful. In one extreme case, my fourth grade teacher— a large black man— had to subdue a boy with anger issues from charging at another classmate by grabbing and holding onto him, knocking over desks in the action. This use of force was necessary as that student was out of control and meant to harm another; Fields’ was not. Never in my life, between terrorist threats, campus fights and disruptive students, have I seen an administrative figure treat a student that way without any just reason.

The video shows the girl sitting at her desk, confronted by an officer because she reportedly would not put her phone away during class, despite being told several times to do so. When she wouldn’t comply with Fields’ directions, he reaches for her neck, then drags her backwards as she still is seated, her desk flipping on top of her.

Should the girl have followed directions? Yes, there’s no debate about that. Any reasonable person would not suggest that all cops are horrible, that we shouldn’t have police forces, and that nobody should comply with officers’ orders. Most would agree that when a police officer or a school security officer tells you to do something, you should follow instructions. But still, the actions of officers such as Deputy Fields can’t always be justified.

Fields was fired by the Richland County Sheriff’s Department on Oct. 28, just two days after the viral incident. In August 2014, Officer Darren Wilson fatally shot and killed Michael Brown, an unarmed African-American teenager who reportedly robbed a convenience store. #JusticeForMikeBrown erupted on social media, demanding that Wilson be immediately fired and charged for Brown’s murder. He wasn’t. He later resigned in November, five days after the Ferguson grand jury decided to not indict him.

What’s different about #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh? Ultimately, it lies in the fact that the Sheriff’s Department swiftly took action on dismissing Fields for his malpractice. Perhaps it was political pressure. Perhaps it was liability. But, really, I think the outcome of this case is largely due to the inflammation of attention and outrage from cardinal police brutality devastations such as Brown’s, Eric Garner’s and Sandra Bland’s. America is fed up. We no longer wish to see the same headline recycled weekly, bearing a new name, a new hashtag, a new outcry of injustice.

With the use of modern technology, we are fortunate enough that bystanders can pull out their smartphones and document these violations; the media adds expands the power of social activism, providing evidence for scrutinization and leading to the final judgement. This is why Fields was fired. And this is how we’ll suspend the tragedy of hashtags replacing human lives.


This story was produced with Global Student Square, an international student-led initiative to get youth voice into the news ecosystem. To learn more about GSS, go to Contact GSS at [email protected].

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