Sheriff seeks information on officer-student confrontation

COLUMBIA: A law enforcement official in South Carolina is on leave after a video showed him tossing a female high school student from her desk and dragging her across a classroom.

No one was hurt in Monday's confrontation at Spring Valley High School in Columbia's the state capital. Officials said the incident occurred after the student refused Senior Deputy Ben Fields' order to leave the classroom for being disruptive. The incident was captured on cellphones by several students.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott was returning to Columbia on Tuesday from a conference in Chicago to get more information. Fields has been placed on leave, Lt. Curtis Wilson said.

The video shows Fields asking the girl to stand up. The girl remains seated and the officer wraps a forearm around her neck. The officer then tips the desk backward until she falls onto the floor. The officer then tosses the girl several feet across the floor to the front of the classroom where Fields ordered her hands behind her back and applied handcuffs.

Lott told local news outlets the video showed the student resisting and being arrested.

"It's very disturbing what happened today. It's something I have to deal with and that's what we're going to be doing," Lott said by telephone Monday.

The girl has been charged with disturbing schools, and was released to her parents. Another female student in the class was also charged with disturbing schools. The names of those charges have not been released.

The school district superintendent, Debbie Hamm, released a statement about the incident.

"Our district is deeply concerned about an incident that occurred at Spring Valley High School today," Hamm said Monday. "The district will not tolerate any actions that jeopardize the safety of our students."

Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin called for an independent investigation of the confrontation.