This is NOT How to Solve Problems, This IS the Problem: Response to footage of Officer Ben Fields Attacking Young Black Female Student in School.
by Aiano Nakagawa
Many of you have probably already seen this video. I saw it about 12 hours ago and since then have seen it reposted and shared multiple times. This information and footage needs to be shared, and this officer, Ben Fields needs to be fired. He should not be in any position of power and should NOT be allowed around children, period.
Beyond the atrocious abuse of power, police brutality, and assault of a young Black female student, the video brings to light a conversation we need to be having. We need to start talking about how having police officers in schools robs students of crucial learning opportunities.
Let me explain, having cops in schools enables educators to practice "zero tolerance" policies, which impose automatic punishment for any infractions against school rules regardless of any extending circumstances. Instead of schools using conflicts as opportunities to model how conversation and effective communication can RESOLVE conflict, schools are letting the police handle it. The zero tolerance policy robs students of the opportunity to learn and practice how to work THROUGH conflict. "'Zero-tolerance' policies criminalize minor infractions of school rules, while cops in schools lead to students being criminalized for behavior that should be handled inside the school" resulting in many students (disproportionately students of color) having a police record before they've even turned 18, making it more difficult to get into college and/or a find job. This is how the SCHOOL TO PRISON PIPELINE operates and is why we need to practice RESTORATIVE JUSTICE which focuses on the needs of the victims and the offenders, and the involved community.
I understand there is a consequence for every action, it is a rule of nature, but I also understand that there is a big difference between consequence and punishment. Zero tolerance policies model that the consequence to breaking the rules is automatic punishment (expulsion, suspension, detention, etc.) The key thing missing in this idea is the understanding that a consequence for breaking the rules is an opportunity to learn how to clearly communicate, listen to others, resolve conflict, and be better equipped to handle conflict in the future.
Children experience conflict, it happens. Adults experience conflict, it happens. There will always be conflict. Students aren’t just in school learning academics, they’re in school learning social skills, how to interact with their peers, and how to deal with conflict when it arises. This is why we need to model that the way to deal with conflict is not through zero tolerance but WITH tolerance, understanding, and clear, effective communication.
I also want to add, that the argument I'm making is based on how we deal with conflict when it DOES arise. In this video, in the moments we see, there is NO conflict and the student is sitting quietly. Unprovoked abuse, harassment, and violence from cops is not uncommon at schools. Schools are supposed to be places to learn, be challenged, and grow, none of that is possible without safety, including safety from police. How well would you learn if you were feared for your safety as you sat in class?
So now take a look at this video... This is how officer Ben Fields deals with a “defiant” student. This is not an appropriate response or "solution to the problem." THIS IS THE PROBLEM!
"Officer Fields has a history of attacking students, who say they’ve complained about him for years. He’s currently facing a lawsuit from another student who says Fields targets Black students. And Fields was sued by a couple who say he attacked and arrested them without provocation. This time, Fields’ violence was caught on camera, and it’s clearly unnecessary, malicious, and brutal."
Trigger Warning: this video contains violence.
The Spring Valley High School incident shown above is not an isolated experience.
In the past 5 years, at least 28 students have been seriously injured and one has been killed by school cops in the U.S.
Click the photo below to learn more.