A black girl in a high school classroom. A black teacher at the head of the classroom. A white police officer called by the teacher.
Add a viral video. That is the recipe for national outrage.
The video in question is of Officer Ben Fields, a school resource officer at Richland County’s Spring Valley High School in South Carolina. In footage captured by horrified students Fields is seen brutalizing a girl –
who we now know is experiencing tough times after being orphaned by the death of her mother and grandmother – by flipping her out of her seat and throwing her across the floor like a rag doll.
Thanks to Black Twitter the incident has blown up and is now subject of national attention. There is even an investigation by the Justice Department.
This situation, though outrageous, is not new. Activists have been alarmed for years by research showing public schools are using police officers as disciplinarians (with seriously disparate racial consequences). And, the problem is bigger than white on black racism. When it comes to police brutality in schools, the color that matters seems to be blue.
How so? Consider these five examples of police in-school aggression against students that can’t be explained simply by interracial violence.
1 That time when MSgt.Thomas Jaha assaulted a student for walking the halls instead of attending a school assembly.
2 That time when a black police officer de-escalated an angry student by punching him and then attempting to box in the middle of a classroom full of kids.
3 That time when Tennessee father Jim Howe was arrested for trying to walk his kids home.
4 That time when a black school resource officer beat and pepper sprayed three middle school girls. The girls were arrested, but charges were dropped. Still, the school district expelled them from their school and sent them to an an alternative school. The cop was reassigned to administrative duties.
5 That time when Officer John Hardin responded to a child’s horseplay by lifting him off the ground in a chokehold and rendering him unconscious. Five days earlier he had punched a 13 year old in the face. According to a lawsuit from parents the school district was aware of the officer’s history of abuse, but did not address his aggression.