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Student's violent arrest caught on video; officer under investigation

Story highlights

  • The officer has been the subject of two lawsuits, but a jury ruled in favor of him in one
  • Details of what led up to the incident are sparse
  • Social media users express outrage and call for the officer's firing

(CNN)A school district in South Carolina is investigating the actions of a school resource officer after video circulated widely on social media Monday showing him violently removing a student from her desk.

It's not known what led up to the incident Monday at Spring Valley High School in Columbia.
    CNN affiliate WIS reported the student was asked to leave the classroom. When she refused, the officer was called in, according to WIS.
    Deputy Ben Fields
    The officer, identified as Richland County Sheriff's Deputy Ben Fields, can be heard on cell phone video telling the girl to get up from her desk.
    "You're either going to come with me, or I'm going to make you," he says.
    When she remains seated, he tells her, "Come on, I'm going to get you up," before picking her up from the desk and throwing her to the floor.
    As he continues to try to restrain her, she is thrown several feet across the classroom as the officer tells her repeatedly to put her hands behind her back.
    Richland School District Two Superintendent Dr. Debbie Hamm said in a statement that safety is the district's "top priority," and that officials are working with the Richland County Sheriff's Department in an investigation.
    "The district will not tolerate any actions that jeopardize the safety of our students," Hamm said.
    The officer has been told not to return to school during the investigation and has been placed on administrative leave by the Sheriff's Department. No injuries were reported as a result of the incident, according to the department.
    The video was trending on Facebook, and the hashtag #AssaultAtSpringValleyHigh had been a No. 1 trending topic on Twitter on Monday night as people reacted to the incident. Many expressed shock at the force used, while others noted the girl was not complying with the officer's demands.
    Facebook users inundated the Richland County Sheriff's Department with comments expressing outrage over the officer's actions and called for his firing.
    A spokesman for the department said Sheriff Leon Lott is aware of the video and "was very disturbed by it."
    "He has questions like everyone has -- and he wants answers and once he has those answers, he will address them," said Sheriff's Department spokesman Lt. Curtis Wilson.
    The student faces a charge of disturbing schools and was released to her parents after the incident, Wilson said. He said another female, who might not be visible in the footage, was also arrested for disturbing schools.
    Fields did not immediately respond to CNN's request for comment Monday night.
    Court documents show the officer was a subject of two lawsuits in the past decade.
    In the first case, Fields was accused of excessive force and battery in a 2007 lawsuit. A jury later ruled in favor of the officer.
    The second case is scheduled to go to trial in January. Fields is one of several defendants listed in a suit filed by a student against the school district over his expulsion.
    Fields has also received commendations for his work in schools. He was given a Culture of Excellence Award by a Richland County elementary school, where he also worked as a school resource officer in 2014.
    "Ben has been working for the Richland County Sheriff's Office Department since 2004 and joined the School Resource Officer Program in 2008," a Sheriff's Department newsletter said.
    "He is assigned to Spring Valley High School as well as Lonnie B. Nelson Elementary School, and has proven to be an exceptional role model to the students he serves and protects."