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UPDATE: School officer fired after classroom take down

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UPDATE: COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) -- Here are the latest developments in the confrontation between a South Carolina deputy and a student recorded on cellphone video (all times local):

12:10 p.m.

A South Carolina sheriff says he has fired a school officer after video showed him flipping a teen backward out of her desk and tossing her across a classroom.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said Wednesday that Senior Deputy Ben Fields has been fired. He had been a school resource officer at Spring Valley High School.

Lott says the maneuver that Fields used on the student was not based on training or acceptable procedure.

Lott has said the girl was uninjured aside from a rug burn. However, the girl's attorney, Todd Rutherford, told ABC's "Good Morning America" that she "has a cast on her arm, she has neck and back injuries." He says she also has a bandage on her forehead because of the rug burn.

9:30 a.m.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott is expected to announce whether he will fire a South Carolina deputy who was recorded on cellphone video tossing a teen from her desk and throwing her across the room at a Columbia high school.

Lott is scheduled to meet with reporters at noon Wednesday to discuss the case involving Master Deputy Ben Fields, a school resource officer at Spring Valley High School. Lott suspended Fields after the teen's arrest was recorded by students.

The girl's lawyer, Todd Rutherford, told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Wednesday that the student suffered arm, neck, back and head injuries during the confrontation.

Authorities had initially said the girl suffered no injuries other than a rug burn.

7:40 a.m.

The lawyer for a teen who was flipped out of her desk and tossed across the room by a school resource officer in South Carolina says his client was injured in the incident.

Todd Rutherford told ABC's "Good Morning America" on Wednesday that the teen has a cast on her arm and suffered neck and back injuries in the confrontation at Spring Valley High School in Columbia on Monday. Rutherford also said the girl suffered a rug burn on her forehead.

Sheriff Leon Lott had said Tuesday that the girl "may have had a rug burn" but otherwise was not injured. Lott is considering whether to fire Senior Deputy Ben Fields because of the confrontation recorded by several students using cellphones.

Rutherford said his client may have struck fields as she reacted to being grabbed by the neck.

4:30 a.m.

A South Carolina sheriff's deputy who flipped a student backward in her desk and tossed her across the floor for refusing to leave math class could learn as soon as Wednesday whether he will be fired.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said once his agency's internal investigation is completed, he will make a decision about whether to keep Senior Deputy Ben Fields on the force.

The videos of the confrontation between a white officer and black girl stirred such outrage that Lott called the FBI and Justice Department for help. A criminal investigation is underway, but the probe generally takes more time.


PREVIOUS STORY: COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office has opened a civil rights investigations into the violent video that surfaced of a school resource officer at Spring Valley High School slamming and dragging a student out of her desk. 

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott says he's asked the FBI to investigate as well. 

Monday night Lott called the Special Agent in charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigations for South Carolina, Dave Thomas, to request an independent investigation of the incident. Tuesday morning the Sheriff followed up with a formal written request to U.S. Attorney William Nettles and Thomas for the US Justice Department asking for a formal investigation. 

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Richland School District 2 school officials have banned the officer from the district in response to a video supposedly taken at Spring Valley High School showing the officer slamming and dragging a student from her desk. 

School officials confirmed the incident happened on Monday between a female student and school resource officer Ben Fields.

Fields, according to Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, was acting in response to the student, who was refusing to leave class. 

"The student was told she was under arrest for disturbing school and given instructions which she again refused," Lott said. "The video then shows the student resisting and being arrested by the SRO."

The first two videos show Fields approaching the girl sitting at a desk in a classroom. Fields grabs the girl's arm while putting his own arm around the student's neck.

However, a third video from Instagram shows Fields try and pick the female student out of her desk, but the student then hits the officer while he brings the desk to the ground.

The person who posted the Instagram video says the student was initially asked to leave the class for telling the teacher that she would not put away her phone. The poster says the teacher disciplined the student with a write-up for being disrespectful and disobedient. After being asked to leave again, and her refusing, an administrator came to remove her, she refused, and that is when the SRO was called in. 

The poster of this video claims when Fields got to the classroom, he asked her to get up from her desk 4 or 5 times and again, she tells him no. After moving objects from around the student, and asking again to leave the classroom, and her refusing, that is where you see the officer getting physical.

The Aftermath

Parents of students at Spring Valley High School are already reacting to the video. A group calling themselves the Richland Two Black Parents Association called the video "egregious" and "unacceptable." 

"Parents are heartbroken as this is just another example of the intolerance that continues to be of issue in Richland School District Two particularly with families and children of color," the statement said. "As we have stated in the past, we stand ready to work in collaboration to address these horrible acts of violence and inequities among our children”. 

Richland School District Two superintendent Dr. Debbie Hamm released a statement, saying the district was deeply concerned about the videos and what they portrayed. Hamm says the district and sheriff's deputies are working in full cooperation to conduct a thorough and complete investigation.

Dr. Hugh Harmon the chairman of the district's Black Parents Association says the members of his group are outraged.

"It hurt, because I have a daughter in Richland Two. She's in elementary about to go into middle school. To get a phone call that, that would have happened to my daughter, I don't know how I would have responded," Dr. Harmon said. 

Sheriff Lott says he wants to know what happened beyond the video. He said his department will cooperate with the federal investigation.

"The public wants answers. I want answers too and we’re going to get them very quickly, and we’re going to make sure the public knows what we’re going to do and why we’re going to do it. There’s nothing that we’re going to hide at the Sheriff’s Department," Lott said. "His actions reflect on all of us and I’m about as upset as anybody can be right now."

Fields will not be back at any school pending the results of an investigation, Lt. Wilson said. Fields is currently on unpaid leave.

"I’m as upset as anybody and I’m very disturbed by what I saw." Lott said. "Appropriate action is going to be taken. We’re going to do it as quick as possible. This isn’t something that’s going to linger on for weeks, or months or even days. It’s going to be done very swiftly."


PREVIOUS STORY: BY TIM STELLOH and TRACY CONNOR, NBC News

(NBC News) - The FBI has been asked to investigate an incident at a South Carolina high school Monday in which a police officer appeared to body slam a female student and drag her across a classroom.

The confrontation, captured on cellphone camera at Spring Valley High School in Columbia, S.C., has drawn intense criticism on social media, from the school district's Black Parents Association — the student is African-American — and the American Civil Liberties Union of South Carolina, which called the deputy's actions "egregious."

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"There is no justification whatsoever for treating a child like this," the ACLU said in a statement.

In a news conference, a spokesman for the Richland County Sheriff's Department, Curtis Wilson, identified the deputy in the video as Ben Fields, one of two school resource officers assigned to Spring Valley. Fields had been placed on administrative duty pending an internal investigation, Wilson said, adding that the officer was declining interview requests.

Fields, who is white, is named as a defendant in a 2013 federal lawsuit that claims he "unfairly and recklessly targets African-American students with allegations of gang membership and criminal gang activity."

The plaintiff in the suit, Ashton James Reese, was expelled from Spring Valley after Fields said that he was a gang member who had taken part in a "huge gang fight."

In the lawsuit, Reese denied that he had ever been involved in a gang.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott did not attend the news conference — he was out of town, Wilson said — but Lott had watched the video and was "disturbed."

Lott "has questions like everybody else," Wilson told reporters. "He wants answers to those questions."

Wilson confirmed that Lott placed to a call Monday to Dave Thomas, the Special Agent in charge of the FBI for South Carolina, to request an independent investigation of the incident. Lott followed up Tuesday morning with a formal written request to Thomas and U.S. Attorney William Nettles.

A male student at Spring Valley told NBC News that the girl had ignored requests by the teacher to go to a "discipline office." The officer then entered the classroom and asked if she would go on her own or if he had to make her, according to the student.

When the student refused to leave, Lott told NBC affiliate WIS earlier Monday, the officer "was requested to take action."

She was told that she was under arrest, but again refused to leave the classroom, Lott told the station. "The video then shows the student resisting and being arrested."

In a statement, school district superintendent Debbie Hamm said the district "is deeply concerned" about the confrontation.

"Student safety is and always will be the District's top priority," Hamm said. "The District will not tolerate any actions that jeopardize the safety of our students."

Hamm added that the district is working "closely" with the sheriff's department to "conduct a thorough and complete investigation."

"Pending the outcome of the investigation, the District has directed that the school resource officer not return to any school in the District," Hamm said.

In a statement, the Richland Black Parents Association said they were "heartbroken as this is just another example of the intolerance that continues to be of issue in Richland School District Two particularly with families and children of color." 

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