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US school officer sacked for throwing student across classroom

Published 28/10/2015

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott speaks during a press conference in Columbia (AP)
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott speaks during a press conference in Columbia (AP)

A South Carolina school resources officer has been fired after a video showed him flipping a student backwards out of her desk and throwing her across a classroom.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said that senior deputy Ben Fields has been fired following the incident at Spring Valley High School in Columbia.

Mr Lott said the student was being disruptive and refused to leave the classroom despite being told by a teacher and administrator to do so.

Fields was brought in to remove her from the class, she again refused, and Fields told her she was under arrest, Mr Lott said.

She continued to refuse, and at that point the video showed the deputy flipping the teenager backwards and then throwing her across the room.

Mr Lott said Fields did not follow proper procedure.

He told a news conference: "I can tell you what he should not have done: He should not have thrown that student."

Calls for Fields to be fired began mounting almost immediately after the video surfaced on Monday, and the FBI began a civil rights investigation at Mr Lott's request.

The confrontation was captured on mobile phones by students, one of whom said it all started when the girl pulled out her phone and refused her maths teacher's attempt to take it away during class.

Lawyer Todd Rutherford, who is representing the teenager, told ABC's Good Morning America: "She now has a cast on her arm, she has neck and back injuries. She has a Band-Aid on her forehead where she suffered rug burn on her forehead."

However, Mr Lott said on Tuesday that the girl was uninjured in the confrontation but "may have had a rug burn".

The sheriff suspended Fields without pay on Monday.

Mr Lott, who rushed home from an out of town conference when the news broke, said that a teacher and vice principal in the classroom at the time felt the officer acted appropriately.

Fields, who also helped coach the Spring Valley football team, has faced accusations of excessive force and racial bias before.

A trial date is set for January in the case of an expelled student who claims Fields targeted black people and falsely accused him of being a gang member in 2013.

In another case, a jury sided with Fields after a black couple accused him of excessive force and battery during a noise complaint arrest in 2005.

A third lawsuit, dismissed in 2009, involved a woman who accused him of battery and violating her rights during a 2006 arrest.

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