SC Student 'Brutalized' by School Resource Officer, Lawyer Says

It hasn't been decided whether the officer will keep his job, sheriff says.

ByABC News
October 27, 2015, 8:48 PM

— -- The lawyer for the South Carolina student violently dragged out of her classroom by a school resource officer says the deputy "brutalized" his client, and criticized law enforcement for still not saying the officer's actions were wrong.

"She is hurt and literally, this is someone who is physically in pain because of what she endured, as she literally flew across the classroom," attorney Todd Rutherford said.

He said the girl's arm is in a cast, she has a rug burn on her forehead and has pain in her neck and back. She was hospitalized Monday night and saw a doctor today, he said.

The lawyer spoke to ABC News after the Richland County sheriff said investigators had a new video of the incident Monday, apparently showing the female student hitting the male officer, but the investigation will focus on the officer's actions.

When the Spring Valley High School school resource officer, identified by the sheriff's office as Ben Fields, put his hands on the student initially, the girl reached up and hit the officer with her fist, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said.

"Does that justify the means? That's what I have to look at," Lott said.

At least three students caught the incident in the math classroom on video. The videos have since circulated on social media.

Police have the video that allegedly shows the girl swinging at the officer and striking him, but they will not release it, the sheriff said.

Lott today recounted how the incident began, saying that the student was "verbally disrespectful" to the teacher. The student refused to leave the classroom, and an administrator was called, Lott said. The student still refused to leave, so Fields was called. The student was still disrespectful, so Fields was asked to remove her from the class, Lott said, and that's when the videos began.

Although the sheriff said the girl's behavior was wrong, seeing the videos made him want to "throw up."

"My reaction is no different from anyone else saw the video," he said.

The officer has been suspended without pay, and a decision on whether Fields will keep his job will be made based on the results of the sheriff's office's internal investigation, which is expected to be completed within 24 hours, Lott said. He stressed that the focus of the sheriff's office's investigation will only be how the officer responded to student.

Rutherford criticized the sheriff's response to the incident and the videos.

"They simply stood behind their officer. They are going to wait 48 to 72 hours to determine whether he did anything wrong, when the rest of the world can determine instantly that something is wrong, that you should never treat a child that like, that a classroom is not a wrestling mat," he said.

School Board Chairman James Manning said Tuesday that the officer involved has been asked to not return to any Richland 2 property.

Manning called the incident an "outrageous exception" to the district's "culture, conduct and standards."

"What happened yesterday ... is reprehensible, unforgivable and inconsistent with everything that this district stands for," Manning said, adding that district officials are doing everything in their power to prevent more incidents like this.

The "safety and dignity of our students is our highest priority," Manning said.

Jeff Temoney, the principal at Spring Valley High School, said he was "deeply disturbed" by the video.

"It hit me in the gut," Temoney said at a news conference held by the Richland 2 school district this afternoon.

Superintendent Dr. Debbie Hamm called this "one of the most upsetting incidents" she's experienced in 40 years.

"Clearly something did not go right in this classroom," said Hamm, adding that they are "examining exactly what happened."

The school resource officers are employed by the Richland County Sheriff’s Office, the school district told ABC News.

The FBI is the lead investigating agency in the case. The sheriff's office and the Department of Justice are also investigating.

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