Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Ben Fields Fired - Disparities in Classroom Discipline Based on Race

Ex-Deputy Ben Fields
In April, 33-year old police officer Michael Slager was caught on video shooting unarmed African-American driver Walter Scott eight times in the back as Scott fled a routine traffic stop on foot. 
Just two months later in June, 21-year old self-described white supremacist Dylan Roof's senseless massacre of nine unarmed African-American members of the Emanuele AME Church in Charleston during an evening bible study horrified the nation and the world.

A month later on July 10th, after intense debate in the South Carolina legislature and public pressure, the Confederate flag was taken down from in front of the statehouse permanently.

But even though that divisive symbol of hatred and racial oppression has been relegated to a museum, the legacy of that flag still seems to fly over the Palmetto State.

A day after a controversial court ruling that no criminal state charges will be filed against Seneca, South Carolina police lieutenant Mark Tiller for shooting and killing unarmed 19-year old Zachary Hammond on July 25th as he tried to flee a minor drug bust, the Richland County Sherriff's Department announced that Deputy Ben Fields has been fired in the wake of a shocking video showing him violently dragging an African-American female high school student from her desk and throwing her across the room.       

It's fair to assume that a healthy chunk of the American populace have seen the disturbing video clip of Fields loosing control in a Spring Valley High School classroom - and the varied reactions to it once again illustrate the extent to which issues related to race in this country continue to divide us.

CNN legal analyst Sunny Hostin 1 - Don Lemon - 0
Yesterday I was watching a heated CNN discussion on the video and I thought legal analyst Sunny Hostin (pictured left) was going to pitch a fit when Don Lemon suggested that the media needed to withhold judgement on Ben Fields' actions until all the facts about what prompted the incident were known.

She made headlines herself for tearing Don a new so-and-so on a live broadcast.

When she said "Are you guys kidding me??" I seriously thought the television screen was going to crack.

On the other side of the spectrum, there were the inevitable conservative voices who predictably blamed the teenaged student whose use of a cell phone in class, sass and refusal to stop using the phone prompted Fields being summoned to the classroom.

During an appearance on Fox's The Kelly File yesterday, the dependably racist, unbalanced fringe Birther Glenn Beck leaped to the defense of Fields:
"The police officer is being put in an absolutely no-win situation and we're sitting around speculating on what he did. What about the teacher? What about the school? What about all the other teachers in all the other schools that now this is being seen on television and they know "all I have to do -- I can punch a police officer, I can resist arrest, and the cop's going to get in trouble." This is an absolute ticket to anarchy, which is exactly what many in our country would like."

"Ticket to anarchy", riiiight.

Mark Fuhrman: Fields used "Soft control" - Huh?
As reported, Former LAPD Detective Mark Fuhrman (who has admitted to intentionally targeting blacks as a police officer because he's a racist) had a rather interesting take on Fields' police technique on the unarmed female student during an appearance on Hannity yesterday when he said:

"I'll tell you why it's not excessive. He verbalized, he made contact, he verbalized, he was polite. He requested her. He verbally did that. The next level is he put a hand on her. She escalated it from there. He used soft control. He threw her on the ground, he handcuffed her. He didn't use mace. He didn't use a Taser. He didn't use a stick. He didn't kick her. He didn't hit her. He didn't choke her. He used a minimal amount of force necessary to effect an arrest."

Soft control. I guess that's where Fields threw the girl across the room onto the carpet? Got it.

Hopefully the result of the intense media scrutiny of this video will prompt greater public scrutiny of the wide disparities in school discipline based on race and ethnicity in this country; a topic which has been covered on this blog multiple times.

If you're interested in looking at some of the hard data on how the race of the student impacts the frequency and severity of school discipline, take a few minutes to look at the blog I published back on February 8th of this year entitled "Separate & Unequal: Who's Getting Disciplined in U.S. Schools and Why".

I don't mean to just "wave my own flag" or anything, I'm pressed for time as I have to get some laundry done before I go watch the GOP presidential debate and Buster the Cat gets tense when dinner is late.

So click the link above. There are some good links to Nina Stochlic's February 5th Daily Beast article on how the trend towards more frequent and severe discipline for students of color in this country is increasing; you can find links to an in-depth Department of Education report on disparities in school discipline based on race as well.

Remember, Ben Fields' actions in that Spring Valley High School classroom are not an anomaly in this nation; they're part of a wider trend that merits attention and action on the parts of teachers, administrators and most of all parents.

I doubt Mark Fuherman would call Fields' actions "soft control" if it was his own daughter being ripped out of her desk and dragged across the floor like an animal.

A lot of people are calling for charges to be filed against Fields, I'm curious to see if that happens in a state like South Carolina where violent overreactions by white police officers on unarmed people (black and white) engaged in relatively harmless rule violations seems to be disturbingly common.

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