What Actually Happened At The #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh, The School To Prison Pipeline and The Homeschooling of African American Children
Nov. 4th, 2015, Updated 2:17pm EST
by Michael Imhotep, TheMichaelImhotepShow.com
Since the 3 videos that surfaced on Monday, October 26th, 2015 from Spring Valley High School in Columbia, SC showing a very disturbing interaction between a Senior Deputy Sheriff of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department in South Carolina and an African American 16 year old unidentified female student, there has been a lot of talk and subsequent confusion on some key details. What I want to do in this article is to clear up some of the confusion the best I can and provide you with sources so you can do further research. Stay tuned for updates as more information is revealed.
- Ben Fields was not a Security Guard at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina as some callers on National Radio shows have mistakenly stated. He was assigned to the school as a School Resource Officer (SRO). He was, until he was rightfully fired on Wednesday, Oct. 28th, 2015, a Senior Deputy Sheriff of the Sheriff’s Department. He was also a football coach at the school. Resource Officers among other things are called in to handle disciplinary problems when teachers and administrators can’t handle situations with students. http://heavy.com/news/2015/10/ben-fields-richland-county-south-carolina-sheriff-deputy-spring-valley-high-school-photo-football-coach-bodybuilder-cop-student-desk-video-complaints/
- Was the 16 year old student who was assaulted by the former Deputy Ben Fields an orphan? There was an article written by Shaun King for the New York Daily News that stated that she was recently orphaned because her mother and grandmother died and that the girl is living in Foster Care. There are also reports that the girl was new to the school. The article stated that it was citing information coming from the girls attorney, Todd Rutherford (D-SC) who is also the Minority Democratic Leader of the South Carolina State House of Representatives.
Todd Rutherford then did an interview, Thursday, October 29th on “The Joe Madison Show” on Sirius XM and stated that not only was the 16 year old girl not an orphan, but her mother and grandmother were alive and well. It appears however that she is in Foster Care according to the updated article from Shaun King for the New York Daily News and the article from TheRoot.com.
“When he grabbed her around the neck and threw her chair back and tossed her across the classroom,” Rutherford said, “I was shocked. I had no words because that was something that simply should not happen. It was a classroom. We’re not talking about a roadside setting where you’re worried about the safety of an officer, we’re not talking about any setting where the officer’s safety is in jeopardy and he needs to make sure he controls the situation. It was a classroom.”
He also talked about Niya Kenney who was the 2nd student who was arrested. Todd Rutherford will serve as legal counsel for both the 16 year old student and Niya Kenny. Atty. Rutherford said she was arrested for standing up for her fellow classmate.
“Niya was arrested for saying ‘is anybody going to do anything about this? How wrong is this? What is going on here, why is nobody stopping this?'” Rutherford said. “It was disturbing to hear Niya say that when he entered the room she knew that something was going to happen because they call him [Ben Fields] ‘Officer Slam.’ And all the other kids took their cell phones out because they knew something was going to happen. That’s wrong on so many levels.”
- Why was the School Resource Officer called into the classroom in the first place? Two students who have done interviews stating what happened and were 2 of the 3 students who recorded the video said that the girl had her phone out (they didn’t state that she was talking on her phone as some people have mistakenly said) and she didn’t put her phone away fast enough when the math teach, Robert Long asked her to put the phone away. He then asked her to turn over the phone to him and she refused. Student Niya Kenney, 18 years old who was in the class and was arrested for trying to help the young girl after she was being assaulted by Resource Officer Deputy Sheriff Ben Fields as well as Tony Robinson who recorded the other video both said the girl was quiet and wasn’t bothering anyone in class.
Student Tony Robinson, witness to assault
Tony Robinson who was one of the students in the class who recorded footage of the incident with his phone spoke with WLTX 19 on Monday, Oct. 26th and told what he saw.
According to WLTX 19 News –
Robinson says he went into the morning thinking it would be a normal, routine day of school. He was in math class, and he and his classmates were working on their assignments.
Around 10:30 a.m., the girl who had the confrontation with the officer was working on her computer, and had her phone out, Robinson said. He said the teacher asked her for her phone, but she said no. An administrator was then called to the room, and Robinson said he pleaded with the girl to get out of her seat, but she didn’t.
“She really hadn’t done anything wrong,” Robinson said. “She said that she had took her phone out, but it was only for a quick second.”
While she didn’t comply, Robinson said the girl was apologetic.
She told Chris Hayes that the girl didn’t do anything to deserve the treatment she received from Deputy Sheriff Ben Fields.
If you actually analyze what happened, if there was anyone who was disrupting the class it was math teacher Robert Long who called her out and instead of saying “please put away your phone or I’m going to have to take”, demanded her phone. Why? Did he feel threatened? Was it because he felt an African American girl was defying his authority?
- Why was Senior Deputy Sheriff Ben Fields fired? Sheriff Leon Lott of the Richland County Sheriff’s Department held a press conference on Wednesday, Oct. 28th, 2015 and stated that he had fired Ben Fields and gave a lengthy explanation of why he was firing him and he said it was because Ben Fields did not follow his training. He also stated that the video made him sick. He tried to put some of the blame on the 16 year old girl because he said the 3rd video showed the girl hitting the officer. It looks like it was more of a reflexive action because she was being grabbed from behind. This was a 300 lb man who is a powerlifter attacking an 16 year old girl because she had her cell phone out in class and the White Male teacher, Robert Long couldn’t handle the situation.
NBCNEWs.com reported on Wednesday, Oct 28th, 2015 –
A memo of the results of the department’s investigation says deputies, in instances where the suspect is in a seated position and is nonthreatening, are trained to use “tactical communication to try to talk them into compliance.” If that fails, deputies can use “pain compliance techniques,” but aren’t supposed to “throw or push away a suspect” unless the person is trying to harm them.
Still, Lott said, people shouldn’t “lose sight” that the student’s unruly behavior set off the incident.
“What she did doesn’t justify what our deputy did. It doesn’t justify his actions, but she needs to be held responsible for what she did,” Lott said.
Some people who are teachers and have taught said they would have ignored the girl and addressed it at the end of the class. Tony Robinson stated “she really didn’t do anything wrong”. This brings into the conversation the School To Prison Pipeline where African American and Hispanic children are disciplined disproportionately for offenses that White children either are not reprimanded for or it is treated as a minor offense that does not result in suspension or having the Police called into a class room, especially for nonviolent offenses. This can result in children having criminal charges pressed against them.
- What is the School To Prison Pipeline?
NewsOne’s Madison J. Gray reported on July 3, 2014 in the article, “The School-to-Prison Pipeline: How Our Educational System Creates Inmates”
There’s been lots of talk about the school-to-prison pipeline over the past few years. Lots of people wringing their hands over what to do about kids, particularly Black boys, who leave school early and are eventually funneled in to the U.S. prison system, where as you read this, there are 840,000 Black males.
But what’s being missed, and something that probably needs to be paid close attention to, is the number of suspensions that are given to these boys as early as preschool, which in turn begins the process of funneling them in to a prison system that awaits them and whose talons will forever carve social scars in to their backs, like the welts of so many slavemasters’ whips. So let’s take a look at a few videos that examine this phenomenon that is affecting our youth and preventing their achievement, particularly among Black males.
There is also a Pre-School to Prison pipeline because there are 7,500 Pre-School Students who are suspended from school each year in America. Suspensions at early ages can scar children for life because they can be labeled as troublemakers by other teachers and administrators which can change the way they are treated and change the way they feel about school. This can make them more prone to suspensions later in their school career or cause them to drop out of school all together. There are a lot of people who talk about how some students are “pushed out of school” because of the School to Prison Pipeline.
CNN’s Sara Snider reported about 3 year old Joah who is a beautiful African American boy who has been suspended by Public Pre-School 5 times. African American students are being suspended from pre-school at a rate 3 times greater than White students.
- According to the National Association of School Resource Officers website www.NASRO.org:
“NASRO was founded on the “triad” concept of school-based policing which is the true and tested strength of the School Resource Officer (SRO) program. The triad concept divides the SRO’s responsibilities into three areas: Teacher, Counselor, and Law Enforcement Officer. By training law enforcement to educate, counsel, and protect our school communities, the men and women of NASRO continue to lead by example and promote a positive image of law enforcement to our Nation’s youth.”
There were reports the student refused to give up her cellphone when officials tried to confiscate it.
According to Los Angeles CBS Local Channel 2’s Jennifer Kastner, the student’s actions are called “willful defiance.”
Kastner spoke to detective Rudy Perez, vice president of the LA Schools Police Officer’s Association.
He says these types of students need to be confronted with active listeners and not threats of physical violence.
“Start listening to why he’s doing it,” Perez says, “Is there an audience around him that needs to be eliminated? Pull him aside. Have a side conversation with a counselor and a school administrator of ‘Why are you acting up? What’s going on here?’”
Perez has spent 14 years as a school police officer.
He can’t speak to the video but said there are only a few situations in which he believes officers should use physical force on a student.
“If someone’s being hurt in a classroom, your school police officer will probably intervene to stop any threat,” he said.
- What makes schools in South Carolina different than many other states? The controversial “disturbing schools” law that was passed by the South Carolina State Legislature.
According to an explosive article from Vox.com, “The contentious South Carolina law that lets police arrest students for being “obnoxious””
When a South Carolina police officer brutally arrested a black student at Spring Valley High School, much of the debate focused on one question: Why was a police officer called into the classroom in the first place?
The answer goes back to a misdemeanor offense for “disturbing schools.” If that seems like an incredibly vague description of a crime, it’s because it’s an incredibly vague law: Students can be charged for “acting in an obnoxious manner” in a school. It carries a hefty punishment: a fine of up to $1,000 or jail time up to 90 days.
It’s under this statute that the student in Spring Valley High School was charged for refusing to put away her phone and leave the classroom per her teacher’s request.
South Carolina isn’t the only state to have this kind of law. Over the past few decades, as lawmakers passed tough-on-crime policies, the idea of a tough approach trickled down to schools across the nation. As a result, schools began to outsource more and more discipline to law enforcement. School disturbance laws reflect that: Whereas a teacher would have had to find a way to deal with a disturbance before, he or she can now call on police to do the job. And seven other states, besides South Carolina, have similar laws, according to BuzzFeed’s Claudia Koerner.
Because of incidences like the what we just saw at Spring Valley High, the School to Prison Pipeline, bullying, etc. these are some of the reasons why some African American parents are choosing to homeschool their children and participate in homeschooling Co-Ops. An article from “The Atlantic”, Feb. 17th, 2015, entitled “The Rise of Homeschooling Among Black Families” stated:
“African American parents are increasingly taking their kids’ education into their own hands—and in many cases, it’s to protect them from institutional racism and stereotyping.”
Yolanda Spivey, writing for TheBlackHomeschool.com, “Why More Black People Are Taking Their Kids Out of Public Schools and Home-schooling Them” said “Joyce Burges, co-founder of National Black Home Educators recently told BBC.com, “The failings of public schools have caused all of us, whether we are white or black, to come up with creative ideas about how we can educate children. That explains the rise of the co-ops and African Americans seeing that this is not just a white thing anymore.” ping.”
There is an estimated 220,000 African American children currently being homeschooled, according to the National Home Education Research Institute.
The words of Dr. Carter G. Woodson come to mind from the Miseducation of the Negro in 1933. He told us, “Black people are the only group of people who take their most precious possessions, their children, and ask their oppressors to educate them and to mold and shape their minds.” Although some of us are starting to listen, it is still not enough.
I discussed this topic with Prof. Kaba Hiawatha Kamene (aka Booker T. Coleman) who is featured in the “Hidden Colors” documentaries and the upcoming film “Black Friday” (visit www.TheFilmBlackFriday.com). He is a retired teacher of 31 years in the New York area Public School System. He often times states that the School System is not failing our children. It is doing exactly what it was designed to do because it was never designed to educate African American children in the first. He and I are both advocates of Homeschooling and Independent Schools for African American children. You can listen to interview I did with him on “The Michael Imhotep Show”, from Thurs. Oct 29th, 2015. We talked about “The Spring Valley High Case & The Need To Take Control of Black Children’s Education”. Listen to the podcast at http://tobtr.com/s/8034423.
Resources to help with educating African American children
If you are interested in finding out more about Homeschooling your children and different ways it can be done regardless of whether you are a single parent, 2 parent household, grandparent, etc. Contrary to popular belief, Homeschooling does not mean that a parent sits at a table with a child at home for 8 hours teaching them. There are many ways in which you can Homeschool. Here are some resources to help you.
www.TheBlackHomeSchool.com – This website has numerous articles about homeschooling, how to do it and success stories with our youth, etc.
www.LiberatedMindsExpo.com – This is the official website of The Liberated Minds Expo Black Homeschool and Education Expo. The Expo takes place the 3rd weekend in July in Atlanta, GA. The expo has been in existence for 4 years and I have been to the last 3 years expos and have been a workshop presenter at the last 2 expos. Experts in the field of Homeschooling African American children, especially from an African Centered perspective are there with numerous resources.
Here is an excellent video from Dr. Samori Camara, Director of the Kali Academy and are presenter at The Liberated Minds Black Homeschooling Expo that can also help you.
Right knowledge corrects wrong behavior!!!
Michael Imhotep is a talk show host, researcher and lecturer and founder of The African History Network. He is the host of The Michael Imhotep Show on The Empowerment Radio Network and can be heard Monday-Friday, 10pm-12midnight EST on www.TuneIn.com or the TuneIn Radio App. Visit his website www.AfricanHistoryNetwork.com for more information about his lectures, DVDs and for podcasts of the show.
You can follow him on Twitter @MichaelImhotep and his Facebook FanPage, “The African History Network”. He is available for interviews and lectures. He is a strong advocate of African Americans reclaiming their history, culture and controlling the economics, education and politics in our community. He is featured in the upcoming documentary, “Black Friday” which deals with African Americans controlling our $1.3 Trillion economy and creating intergenerational wealth. Visit www.TheFilmBlackFriday.com for more information.