- Associated Press - Thursday, August 11, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - The Latest on last fall’s “disturbing schools” arrest of a student who was tossed across a classroom after refusing to give up her cellphone (all times local):

5:20 p.m.

A South Carolina sheriff says the agreement he signed with the U.S. Department of Justice represents something positive resulting from one of his deputies tossing a student across a classroom last fall.

Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said Thursday that it’s his responsibility to prevent the incident from defining his department. Lott fired Deputy Ben Fields after the girl’s classmates recorded him flipping the 16-year-old backward in her desk and throwing her across the floor. The girl’s offense was refusing to surrender her cell phone after pulling it out in class, and then refusing to leave the classroom despite orders from educators.

Lott said what the deputy did was wrong, but educators never should’ve asked him to intervene in a classroom management issue. The sheriff says he wholeheartedly supports the agreement’s statement that school officers should not be used as disciplinarians.

Lott said he also supports an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit filed Thursday that accuses the state of criminalizing students by charging them with such things as “disturbing schools.”

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2:40 p.m.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing South Carolina over what it calls the criminalization of normal adolescent misbehavior.

The lawsuit filed in federal court Thursday challenges the state’s “disturbing schools” and “disorderly conduct” charges as unconstitutionally vague. It asks a judge to stop the state from charging students in kindergarten through 12th grade with the two crimes.

Plaintiffs include Niya Kenny, the 18-year-old who videotaped a Richland County deputy flipping a student backward out of her chair and tossing her across the classroom. She told the deputy that what he was doing was wrong, and was arrested along with the girl on a charge of disturbing schools.

The video prompted the deputy’s firing and sparked national outrage. But 10 months later, Kenny still faces the misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

The attorney general’s office declined to comment on pending litigation.

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12:45 p.m.

The U.S. Department of Justice has signed an agreement with the South Carolina sheriff’s department whose deputy tossed a student across a classroom after she refused to put away her cellphone, calling it part of the federal agency’s efforts to stem the “school-to-prison pipeline.”

Richland County agreed to intensive, annual training of deputies who work in schools, including how to de-escalate situations, avoid bias and interact properly with disabled students.

The agreement settles a Justice review that began months before the deputy’s arrest of the then-16-year-old was recorded on a video that went viral. The review was partly due to complaints and arrest patterns.

The agreement echoes state Board of Education rules given initial approval Tuesday that would limit an officer’s involvement to criminal misconduct, not ordinary student discipline.


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