Spring Valley School Assault: But, She Was Being Defiant & Other Excuses

Recently, a video of a teenage girl at Spring Valley school in South Carolina went viral. The video shows the student sitting at her desk when a police officer overturns the desk, throwing her to the ground and then across the room. He later arrests her.

[Google it if you want to read more, I have chosen to remove the video.]

Officer Ben Fields has since been fired. However, I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend on YouTube and in the media. I’ve noticed people are making excuses for the police officer and blaming the victim. Here are the common claims that I have heard.

Claim #1: “The girl was disrupting the class and being insubordinate, she brought this on herself.”

Claim #2: ” Black Youth today are out of control and the only way to maintain order is to use physical force. ”

Why I Disagree with these claims…

Claim #1: She brought this on herself..

As someone who has worked in an educational setting with children, some of whom exhibited disruptive behavior, there is no excuse for  the cop exhibiting that level of force with that student. 

There are proper procedures for addressing disruptive behavior. Specially trained educators and psychologists know how to address challenging behavior without using the force the police officer used. For example, they could have used a strategy called “Positive Behavior Support,” this is a form of behavior management that is designed to address challenging behaviors and reinforce positive behaviors.

Positive Behavior Support (PBS): “PBS provides a process to understand and resolve the problem behavior of individuals or children that is based on values and empirical research. It offers an approach to develop an understanding of why the child engages in problem behavior and strategies to prevent the occurrence of problem behavior while teaching the child new skills.” 

source

I have used Positive Behavior Support when I faced challenges with a student who used profanity and had a habit of throwing chairs and it was very helpful and the student showed great improvement. Sometimes it’s a simple as giving the younger person a choice. You say, “here are your options, you can either give me the phone and stay in the classroom or you can keep the phone and go to the principles office. What would you prefer?” All of these are strategies that special educators use to work with students who are being defiant.

You can also use restorative practice to address challenging behaviors.

I think the student not putting the phone away was a minor infraction that could have been rectified by using the best practices I mentioned above. Also, if the student continued to be defiant, then proper procedure would be to do a Functional Behavior Analysis, which is just an assessment that determines triggers in the environment and observes student responses to certain triggers. You then formulate a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) based off of the Functional Behavior Analysis (FBA) to determine if there are some other underlying issues that are affecting the students behavior.

Using these strategies is called being professional, what I saw in the video was not professional. Unfortunately police officers in schools are not often trained in any of these strategies.

Claim #2: ” Black Youth today are out of control and the only way to maintain order is to use physical force.”

I do not believe that Black youth today are bad or out of control. I think many youth today are up against insurmountable odds and unfortunately many teachers and police officers are not trained to meet the high needs of students today.

Because of the criminal justice system, many younger people, especially younger Black people have to deal with excessive stress at home and in school. The impact of mass incarceration on black communities has been disastrous, fathers and mothers have been stripped from the home and many families are left in poverty. As a result of the intersection of the criminal justice system, racism and poverty, some students are dealing with unimaginable stress and all of this impacts their ability to be successful in school.

Students, especially young Black students are caught in a system where racism, poverty and mass incarceration intersect and some students are developing trauma histories or emotional/behavior challenges because of this. How can you possibly expect a child to focus and trust an adult in school  when they see police brutalizing people in their community for no reason every day. I worked with a child who at 9 years old developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after witnessing a young man being beaten by police outside her apartment. Every time she hears a siren or sees someone in uniform, she has a panic attack. These are things that many young people deal with.

As a result more and more children are coming to under-funded, under-resourced schools with trauma histories or emotional/behavior disabilities and the schools do not have enough trained teachers, special educators or psychologists to provide the necessary supports for these students. There is also not enough diversity within the teaching staff at schools. At the elementary level, 90% of educators are white females. What does that say when young Black children don’t have any Black role models to look up to? What message does that send?

Black children’s needs are not being met, they’re being suspended, expelled or they drop out from the stigmatization and then they end up in the school to prison pipeline. 

 

The advent of the mass incarceration policies and poverty has placed youth in an unimaginably difficult situation and for many it is difficult to be successful in school because of this.

Also, the school system comes down hard on Black children. Studies have shown that even when Black and white children exhibit the same challenging behaviors, the black student is more likely to be punished due to implicit bias by teachers.

The school system is failing too many Black children. Even Black preschoolers are being suspended at rates not seen before.

There is nothing wrong with the young people, there is something wrong with this society and until we overcome racism and reform the criminal justice system and reform the school system, Black children are going to continue to fail and be mistreated in school.

With all of this information, it’s no wonder that more Black parents are choosing to home school their children. 

What We Need Is:

1) An End to Mass Incarceration

2) Spend less money on putting police in school and more money to Increase Special Educators, Psychologists in schools

3) Smaller Class Sizes

4) More Teachers of color

5) Police Officers who are trained in Restorative Practice

6) An End to mandatory Standardized Testing

Tips for Dealing with Defiance

Spring Valley School Assault: But, She Was Being Defiant & Other Excuses

12 thoughts on “Spring Valley School Assault: But, She Was Being Defiant & Other Excuses

  1. You clearly know you stuff. So, according to what I read, the teacher should be fired too. The only thing I could see an officer being called in for is a physical fight or even a very heated argument, to break it up or deescalate the situation. Even then, dragging and beating would be unnecessary.

    He didn’t do his job and neither did the teacher.

    Like

  2. You are totally right! However, black children are not viewed as children at all and that is a part of the problem. Many teachers and administrators are not going to put the time into these students to do all of what you just mentioned. I think its amazing that you know all of that and shared it, they are great ideas and would be even better if practiced. Black children are not valued, they are viewed as burdens. I had to take my son out of public school, I ended up homeschooling him for a year.

    It seems like black children’s behaviors are criminalized, something as simple as a arm wrestling match or a drawing. I remember when my son was in 5th grade he drew a laser gun at school. The principal called me and said that if he drew another gun that he could be suspended and even expelled, it was ridiculous. Many teachers don’t have the patience for children and they definitely will not be called to duty for the benefit of black children, sadly. I want to say that it is when black people are not teaching black children, but even in some cases I have seen black teachers lose their cool with black children, though it is mainly white teachers with black students where I see these extreme situations.

    I believe part of the problem is lack of parent and family involvement in children’s education. These teachers and staff never see parents and or guardians and feel that these children are not protected, so it’s a free for all on these kids. There is no accountability, parents are not calling and emailing teachers to find out what is what. Back to school night – empty; college open house – empty; parent-teacher conference – empty. Some of these teachers never see the parents.

    In teachers’ defense I have seen students curse out, fight, abuse, maim, etc. teachers. Students have made teachers jobs hard, teachers have been raped, etc. There is this culture in the urban community where there is a lack of values and this “anything goes” type attitude. I am not saying this is an excuse for what he did, there is no excuse for what he did and him getting fired is a slap on the wrist and in the face. However, these issues will only get worse unless there is some accountability. Cops should not be in the schools in the first place. We have to stop thinking idealistic and start thinking and living realistic and that is going to take a lot of humbling.

    Like

    1. It isn’t the teachers’ fault, they’re in a difficult position as well. They aren’t trained and they aren’t given the support they need to meet the needs of all of the students who come in with these trauma histories and emotional/behavior disabilities. Also schools are under funded, teachers are pressured so much about test performance that they are being robbed of the ability to build relationships with their students and you HAVE to build relationships with children who have trauma histories or emotional/behavior challenges, especially. You need that with all students, but the students with the most challenges, especially need that. So it’s not all on the teachers, as I said, it’s society that has made it difficult. A lot of the behavior you mentioned go back to poverty, and structural racism. It’s traumatizing students and studies have shown that when you’re in a constant state of trauma you can’t leaner because when information comes in through the amygdala, it gets re-routed when your body is in a heightened state of stress, so you can’t learn and then when you fall behind you get frustrated.

      MOST Black students, 95% are suspended and expelled for non-violent offenses, so when you mentioned teachers’ being raped or physically violent, that is completely different and that is actually the exception, not the rule.

      In that case, you need to call the authorities that’s a crime that’ been committed and it has become a safety concern.

      However, 95% of the time you can correct disruptive behavior with PBS or restorative practice or with a one-on-on session with a Psych rehabilitation program etc., you can even correct criminal behavior with someone called restorative justice, but that’s another topic

      Liked by 1 person

    2. To add on, this teenager in the video had recently lost her mother. So imagine the pain and trauma that she is dealing with, had the teacher been able to build a relationship with her and had he been trained to check in with her, he might have been able to understand and address her behavior before it escalated to what it did. So building a relationships IS CRUCIAL. When I worked with a child who had an emotional/behavior disability, he often had temper tantrums, he could be disrespectful to me, but I had built a relationship with him, so it never go out of control and we worked together to come up with Positive incentive plan that worked for him and by the ned of the year we were on good terms with each other because i worked to build that relationship and he improved from having that relationship as well.

      Like

  3. SR says:

    The police officer had no reason to intervene. The student was never said to get violent, the dean of students, or actually the teacher herself, could have had her leave. Every time someone’s been given an ultimatum when i’m in school, they normally comply with the teacher’s demands to avoid getting written up and suspended. The ONLY time an officer EVER EVER EEEEEEEEVER got involved with students was when there was a physical fight. And even then it was only when our dean, male teachers or coaches weren’t nearby. The one time I saw an officer break up a fight he simply warned the girl who was the aggressor, when she kept on and ignored the officer he restrained her by simply dragging her to the floor onto her stomach and handcuffed her and kept an eye on the other person that was in the fight. The girl in the handcuffs couldn’t do anything but stand up and pace around talking trash (she was in handcuffs so no one cared about all the airs she was putting on) until the officer came toward her and took her to the police car. Someone else handled the other girl, not quite sure what happened to her, probably something similar until everything was settled out. And then you have this cop who pulled this girl back out of her chair and slid this girl across the room when she was in no way physically or verbally aggressive, and arrested. It simply doesn’t take all of that. And then when the cop was fired the kids at that school talk about how they want him back, how wrong the student was, I wouldn’t be surprised if she was just unliked by her classmates and they thought she deserved what happened.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s