The former school resource officer who forcibly removed a female student from her desk last October at Spring Valley High School in Columbia will not face any criminal charges in the incident, nor will either of the two students arrested at the time.
Fifth Circuit Solicitor Dan Johnson said Friday that, based on all available evidence that he has investigated, there is no probable cause to bring about criminal charges against former Richland County Sheriff’s Deputy Ben Fields.
Johnson on Friday released an 11-page overview of evidence gathered by the FBI and the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) on the October 2015 incident. In the findings, the Solicitor’s Office said witnesses and even the student involved had mostly agreed with Fields’ testimony of what happened. Fields said he was called to the classroom after the student refused her teacher’s orders to report to detention for using her cell phone in class. The teacher called an administrator, who then called Fields. After the student did not answer several repeated requests by Fields, he then forcibly pulled her out of her desk, toppling it over and then dragging her across the floor.
The report states the student (who is not named because she is a minor) had a “dime-sized” rug burn above her eyebrow. Her guardian told investigators Fields explained what had happened and the student never disputed the officer’s account. However, the guardian said she was shocked after watching the online video, but the student told her she didn’t think the altercation was “that bad.” The student told the guardian she thought she’d hit Fields during the struggle, according to the report.
Fields was fired by Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott after an internal investigation. Solicitor Johnson said Lott was “well within his rights” to do so. However Johnson wrote that, while the student forcibly removed likely did violate the state’s law on “disturbing schools,” the school district’s decision to no longer use Offier Fields at Spring Valley and his subsequent firing compromised the case.
“Prospective jurors may conclude that the school district… effectively advanced the position that those personnel acted improperly in regards to their interactions with the student,” he stated. “Once that fact has been exposed, the likelihood of proving the student guilty beyond a reasonable doubt diminishes significantly.”
The incident was caught on cell phone video by another student who was also disciplined. The solicitor said neither the student removed from her seat nor the student who recorded the confrontation will face any charges.
Johnson said the investigation did not turn up enough evidence to charge the student who recorded the incident. According to the State newspaper charges had been filed against Niya Kenny with a Sept. 15 court date set.
Kenny has since gotten involved with an ACLU lawsuit filed against the Richland County Sheriff’s Office and the state of South Carolina, arguing the state’s “disturbing schools” law is unconstitutionally vague.