The former South Carolina school resource officer who violently grabbed a female student and threw her out of her desk in October 2015 will not face civil rights charges, the Justice Department announced Friday.
Charleston’s Post and Courier reports that the DOJ said there is insufficient evidence to bring civil rights charges against former Richland County Sheriff’s Deputy Ben Fields.
In a statement, the DOJ said, “The decision is limited strictly to an application of the high legal standard required to prosecute the case under the federal civil rights statute; it does not reflect an assessment of any other aspect of the incident involving Fields and the Spring Valley High School student.”
The investigation stemmed from an Oct. 26, 2015, incident during which Fields arrested a black female student at Spring Valley High School after she was caught texting in class and refused to leave her seat.
When the girl refused to move, Fields flipped her desk backward with her still in it and tossed her across the floor. The incident was captured on video by a fellow student and went viral.
Both the student Fields manhandled and the student who filmed the video were charged with “disturbing schools.”
As the Post and Courier notes, black parents and activists were outraged by the charges and called for officials to drop the charges against the girls. Fields was subsequently fired from the Richland County Sheriff’s Office.
The DOJ has worked with South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to address issues with the state’s “disturbing schools” law, which the Post and Courier reports prohibits “obnoxious” behavior and has been used to punish everything from fights in the cafeteria to disrespect in the classroom.
The Justice Department also worked with SLED on its investigation into Fields’ use of force, and has addressed issues that the Spring Valley incident brought to light. According to the Post and Courier, the DOJ’s Office of Justice Programs reached a comprehensive agreement with the sheriff’s office on changes that will ensure that its SRO program is in full compliance with federal civil rights laws prohibiting discrimination against students based on race, color, national origin or disability.
The sheriff’s office must now provide intensive annual training for all SROs on de-escalation, bias-free policing and youth development and must also develop policies to minimize school-based arrests.
Read more at the Post and Courier.