A 16-year-old girl known as Shakara was placed in a chokehold, flipped over in her seat, then dragged and thrown across her classroom before being handcuffed by a South Carolina school officer in October.
Video footage of the incident prompted the FBI and the Department of Justice to look into the incident and, after the Richland County Sheriff's Department conducted a 48-hour investigation into his conduct, Officer Ben Fields was fired. But the charges filed against Shakara and Niya Kenny, a classmate arrested for filming the incident, still stand.
Yes, legal repercussions against the two black teenagers are still possible even though Fields was fired for how he conducted himself during their arrests. Both girls face a misdemeanor charge of disturbing schools and, if found guilty, could be fined up to $1,000 or face 90 days in jail.
On Thursday, ColorOfChange, the Alliance for Educational Justice and the Justice for the Spring Valley Two Coalition delivered a petition to South Carolina's fifth judicial circuit solicitor Dan Johnson demanding Fields be prosecuted and that the charges against the two teens be dropped.
“These two young women have suffered enough without the justice system dragging out the process of eliminating these ridiculous charges,” said Rashad Robinson, ColorOfChange’s executive director, in a statement. “Solicitor Dan Johnson has the ability and opportunity to do the right thing.”
“By failing to take action, he has aligned himself with far too many prosecutors around the country who criminalize black youth while failing to hold police accountable,” he added.
But Johnson insists that he will not move forward on the charges until the FBI has finished investigating Fields. He also hinted that he will not moved by the petition.
"I do not simply decide cases based upon feelings, public opinion or sentiment, nor do I decide them based on political pressure," Johnson said in a statement to The Associated Press.
The groups are also launching #DroptheCharges, a social media campaign, to raise additional awareness of Shakara and Kenny’s case, heighten the pressure on the solicitor and end school-based arrests.
“Sadly, what is happening to Shakara and Niya is no isolated incident. There is a racially biased system of school discipline across the country,” Efia Nwangaze of the Justice for the Spring Valley Two Coalition said in a statement. “Black girls are six times more likely to be punished -- and more severely so than their white counterparts -- and three times their black male counterparts in Richland.
"The Richland School District Two suspends students at a rate eleven percentage points higher than the national average and Black students are far more likely to be suspended or expelled,” she continued.
In addition to facing disproportionate suspension rates, black students are more likely to attend schools that resemble prisons. Of the 91,114 New York City students who walk through a metal detector to enter school each day, 48 percent are black compared to 14 percent of their white peers, according to a WNYC analysis.
Judges, social justice organizations and even police officers have said schools are how more youth are entering the criminal justice system. Around 260,000 students were handed over to law enforcement by schools in 2012, and 92,000 of those students were arrested for school-related offenses, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Other consequences of school-related arrests include higher dropout rates, lower annual incomes and arrest records.
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