The PJ Tatler

Clyburn on School Arrest Video: 'This Resource Officer Did Not Act His Age'

The assistant Democratic leader in the House said his home state needs to change some laws as “the third biggest level of arrests in South Carolina now for school disorders.”

Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) made the comments in the wake of a video showing a school resource officer trying to pull a female student out of a desk, then the desk tipping over with the student still inside. The officer pulls her out of the desk and several feet across the floor of the math class at Spring Valley High School.

The officer was called when the student refused to leave the class after being asked to do so by the teacher for not putting away her phone. One of the multiple cell phone videos of the incident shows the teen hitting the cop as the desk comes crashing down.

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department said there were no injuries, but the teen’s mother said her daughter has a broken arm and cuts and bruises.

Deputy Ben Fields has been fired. The FBI is taking the lead in the investigation.

“If she had not disrupted the school and disrupted that class, we would not be standing here today. So it started with her and it ended with my officer. What I’m going to deal with is what my deputy did,” Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said Tuesday.

“When the officer puts his hands on her initially, she reaches up and she pops the officer with her fist,” Lott said.

Still, the sheriff told CNN later, “there’s no justification for some of his actions.”

Clyburn, a former public school teacher, told CNN today that he knows the sheriff well and “he did what was proper.”

“Unfortunately, this should not end this. I think that we have to begin to review our school procedures,” the congressman said.

“…I’ve had teenagers, and sometimes teenagers mouth off. And when they do, we have to treat them as teenagers and we have to conduct ourselves as professionals. That deputy, that resource officer, did not conduct himself as a professional dealing with a young developing child. And we should always keep in mind that all of us have been young ourselves, and all of us know that we, at sometimes, act out our age, but adults must always act their age as well. And this resource officer did not act his age, did not follow procedure.”

Clyburn said what should be discussed are “these repressive laws that we’ve been putting on the books in recent years.”

“We’ve got these young people developing criminal records for the rest of their lives, then we tell them you can’t vote once you get the criminal record, and we are doing that to young, high school and junior high school. That is an abomination that we need to look at in South Carolina and stop some of this foolishness,” he said, adding that deputies should “absolutely” be removed from classrooms.

“They can be in the schools to protect the student, but they’ve got no business in a classroom meting out discipline. Discipline in the classroom belongs to the teacher. The teacher should go to the administrator. The administrator should never bring any kind of a deputy sheriff into the classroom unless there’s some kind of bodily harm being threatened. If somebody is using their cell phone that should not be, that should not lead to a criminal arrest, and certainly should not lead to personal injury.”

The congressman added that “this guy looked like he was practicing his weight lifting on that little girl,” the 16-year-old student in the video. “This is crazy stuff. And we all know it. And we in South Carolina ought to be ashamed of it and we ought to respond the way we should respond and that is to take a look at these draconian laws that we put on the books, and take a look at the procedure involving resource officers in the classrooms. They ought to be there to protect outsiders from coming in and harming kids who are sitting in the classroom, never to mete out discipline to an unruly child. Because most children I know at one time or another are in fact unruly.”

Clyburn concluded that “we, as adults, must act like adults, irrespective of how children may act.”