Video shows school resource officer forcibly removing student from desk
Nine months after a video showing a deputy yanking a girl from her seat at Spring Valley High School and tossing her went viral online, one of the two students charged with disturbing schools is set to appear in court.
Niya Kenny is scheduled to appear at the Pontiac Magistrate Office on Wednesday. Kenny is not the student who was removed from her seat and slung across the floor – rather, she says she encouraged classmates to film what was happening with their cellphones. Kenny and the other girl, who has not been publicly identified because she is a minor, were both charged with disturbing schools.
If convicted of the misdemeanor, Kenny faces a fine of up to $1,000 or 90 days imprisonment in the county jail.
Richland School District 2 has said little about the charges, since they are a law enforcement and courts issue. The solicitor’s office, too, has said little.
The incident happened Oct. 26. Prior to what the video shows, officials said, a disruptive student had been told to surrender her cellphone and had refused. When she was told to leave the classroom, she wouldn’t. That’s when Ben Fields, at that time a Richland County deputy and school resource officer, was called in.
Kenny told The State that Fields had a reputation at the school, and that when she saw he was the one called in – rather than the school’s other resource officer – she told her classmates to get out their phones and film. Kenny watched as Fields wrestled the 16-year-old girl from her desk and flung her to the front of the classroom, where he subdued and arrested her. Kenny stood up and protested, shouting loudly.
She said Fields then arrested her for speaking out in support of the girl.
A student-filmed video showing the altercation went viral that day. At first, Fields was placed on administrative duties with pay. Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott fired Fields two days after the incident, following an internal investigation. Lott also asked the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to investigate; there has been no resolution as yet.
Kenny’s court date has been rescheduled numerous times, most recently to allow her attorney – state Rep. Todd Rutherford, D-Richland – to get through the recent legislative session.
The case sparked a statewide discussion on the role of officers in schools – with many people, including the sheriff, criticizing the charge of disturbing schools as too broad. Many people also raised the issue of race; Fields is white, and both students are African-American.
Kenny told The State in October at first, she was satisfied with Fields’ firing but after further consideration believes he should be prosecuted. Her attorneys said the criminal charge against her needs to be resolved before they would consider whether to sue the deputy and school district.