COLUMBIA, S.C. — A group of black parents plans to present a petition calling for officials to drop charges against a 16-year-old South Carolina high school student who was videotaped being yanked from her desk and thrown to the floor by a police officer in her classroom.
A misdemeanour charge of disturbing schools was filed against the student and an 18-year-old who videotaped the incident on her cellphone on Oct. 26 at Spring Valley High School in Columbia.
The newly formed group, named Richland 2 Black Parents Association after the district where the incident took place, said it has gathered hundreds of thousands of signatures from around the country asking Solicitor Dan Johnson to drop the charges. Group members planned to be at Johnson’s office Thursday afternoon. The students in the case are black; the officer is white.
Johnson issued a statement Wednesday saying he won’t do anything with the case until the FBI finishes its investigation into Richland County deputy Ben Fields, who was fired after the video became public.
“I do not simply decide cases based upon feelings, public opinion or sentiment, nor do I decide them based on political pressure,” Johnson said in the statement.
The punishment for disturbing schools is a fine of up to $1,000 or 90 days in jail. The lawyer for the students did not respond to a telephone message Wednesday.
The video spread quickly across the country, prompting questions about when police officers should get involved with classroom discipline. Fields was called after the student refused to stop using her cellphone, and then would not leave the classroom for a teacher or administrator.
The teacher turned her class over to a substitute and the administrator was placed on leave in the days after the incident. Richland 2 officials didn’t respond to an email asking about their current status.
The students were allowed back in school.
The black parents group also promises to ask lawmakers to change the law that allows police officers to arrest students for misbehaving at schools that Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott blamed for escalating the situation.
Jeffrey Collins, The Associated Press
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