School discipline discussion ensues after S.C. case goes viral

Elsie Morales

You’ve probably seen the video a few times: A school officer dragging a teenage girl out of her seat and arresting her. The Oct. 26 incident at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, South Carolina, was captured on video that quickly went viral on social media.

“I was shocked and disturbed,” freshman Emely Felix said. “I couldn’t believe how the officer pulled her like that.”

The officer was identified as Richland County Sheriff’s Deputy Ben Fields and was fired on Oct. 27.

Like students and educators around the country, Principal Deb Smith found the video disturbing at first. Then she noticed that there was more to the incident than what the video showed.

 “I think that the whole video is pretty disturbing,” Smith said. “But I also recognize that what’s missing in the video is what happened before that.”

Had a similar problem occurred at Daniel Pearl Magnet High School (DPMHS), Smith would have  gotten statements from the teacher, the officer and the student. She would also have random searching done on the students present in the classroom. She’d try to sort out what exactly happened.  

 At DPMHS, discipline depends on the severity of the offense. What would also be taken into account is how many times a student has had to be disciplined.

I think that the whole video is pretty disturbing. But I also recognize that what’s missing in the video is what happened before that.

— Principal Deb Smith

There are two types of suspensions, in-school suspensions and out-of-school suspensions. In-school suspensions require students to attend school, but they are placed in a designated suspension room all day. Out-of-school suspensions ban the student from being on school grounds during school hours. In-school suspensions were designed to minimize the use of out-of-school suspensions.

 “I can’t guarantee that there are certain things that will get an in-house suspension versus an out-of-school suspension,” Smith said.

An in-school suspension can be given to a student if they disrespect teachers or bully other students. Their offense could also rise to out-of-school suspension, depending on the severity of the incident. Other misdeeds that can lead to out-of-school suspension are fights, any kind of violence, sales of drugs, using drugs on campus, or possession of drugs.

DPMHS has a zero tolerance policy on bullying. Whenever students are involved in bullying, there would be some kind of conflict resolution between the students. They can figure out the problem and settle their differences.  

“Clearly when students are engaging in bullying, there’s gonna be some kind of conflict resolution,” Smith said. “(We) try and see if we can figure out what is the cause of this and…get them to settle their differences in an appropriate manner.”

Last year, LAUSD introduced a new disciplinary alternative known as restorative justice. Its purpose is to reduce suspensions throughout the district. Restorative justice methods are meant to resolve conflicts by talking with the student, such as talking circles, as well as other methods to build trust.

“They should talk about their emotions. They might not have anyone else to talk to,” freshman Taylor Devlugt said. “They can do something that’s been done to them to someone else.”