School Resource Officers: 1953 Flint, Mich. to 2015 Spring Valley, S.C.

November 2, 2015
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Still from video on New York Times http://nyti.ms/1N3xffB A police officer at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina appears to flip a student out of her chair and drag her across a classroom floor. By Reginald Seabrooks on Publish Date October 27, 2015.

Still from New York Times video available at http://nyti.ms/1N3xffB
A police officer at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina appears to flip a student out of her chair and drag her across a classroom floor. By Reginald Seabrooks, October 27, 2015.

On Monday, October 26, 2015, School Resource Officer (SRO) Ben Fields at Spring Valley High School in South Carolina responded to a teenage girl refusing to leave the classroom by violently flipping her over in her chair, slamming her to the ground, and dragging her out of the classroom, as her fellow students watched in horror and taped the assault.

SROs are sworn law enforcement officers working within public schools. The first SRO to be assigned full-time to a school was in 1953 in Flint, Michigan. During the 1960s, localities across the country developed programs integrating police officers into the school setting.

In recent years, SROs have gained negative attention for their role as part of the school-to-prison pipeline, an overarching term for how youth are more likely to interact with the criminal justice system in the educational setting, increasing their likelihood of incarceration. In 2011, Justice Policy Institute released the report “Education Under Arrest” making the case to remove SROs. In addition to police presence at schools increasing escalation of disruptions, the normalization of metal detectors, pat-downs, and the threat of law enforcement involvement prepare students for maltreatment by police as adults. SROs are deployed differently in schools across the county, and police, like the rest of the population, exhibit racial bias. Students who have not experienced chronic overpolicing expect law enforcement to protect them in adulthood. Other students know a different reality of physical violence at the hands of police.

The incident at Spring Valley High School was shared widely on social media and quickly picked up by news outlets. Fields was fired two days later, on Wednesday, October 28, 2015. Comparisons were made to an incident earlier in 2015 when an officer responded to a neighborhood disturbance by throwing a black teenage girl to the ground and threatening other students with violence. This incident also included the violent treatment of a black teenage girl by a white police officer. Within the context of the Black Lives Matter movement, these incidents are part of a specific thread that extends throughout U.S. History. How are black women’s bodies systematically devalued in such a way that puts them in increased physical danger?

 

Sources:

1. Fausset, Richard and Ashley Southall. “Video Shows Officer Flipping Student in South Carolina, Prompting Inquiry.” N.Y. Times, Oct. 26, 2015, www.nytimes.com/2015/10/27/us/officers-classroom-fight-with-student-is-caught-on-video.html.
2. Sneed, Tierney. “School Resource Officers: Safety Priority or Part of the Problem?” U.S. News & World Report, Jan. 30, 2015, www.usnews.com/news/articles/2015/01/30/are-school-resource-officers-part-of-the-school-to-prison-pipeline-problem.
3. “Education Under Arrest: The Case Against Police in Schools” Justice Policy Institute, Nov. 2011, http://www.justicepolicy.org/uploads/justicepolicy/documents/educationunderarrest_fullreport.pdf.
4. Blinder, Alan. “Ben Fields, South Carolina Deputy, Fired Over Student Arrest.” N.Y. Times, Oct. 28, 2015, www.nytimes.com/2015/10/29/us/south-carolina-deputy-ben-fields-fired.html.
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