Student arrested during South Carolina school incident says she told classmates to film

Second student arrested at Spring Valley High School speaks out

Spring Valley student Niya Kenny talks about her arrest Monday.
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Spring Valley student Niya Kenny talks about her arrest Monday.

When school resource officer Ben Fields entered the classroom at Spring Valley High School on Monday morning, student Niya Kenny says she knew something was going to happen.

“Initially, when they said an SRO was coming, we have two — so I didn’t know which one was coming,” Kenny said. “It could have been the other one. When I saw deputy Fields, that’s when I started . . . that’s when I told them to get the cameras out, because we know his reputation — well, I know his reputation.”

As soon as Kenny saw that the officer called in was Fields, she said she told her classmates to get their phones ready. The deputy entered through a door on the other side of the room from where Kenny was sitting and showed no signs of having heard her comment to her classmates, said Simone R. Martin, one of Kenny’s attorneys.

After Fields forcibly removed a girl who the teacher said was disrupting class by refusing to put her phone away, the deputy arrested Kenny as well. The first girl was released to her parents, but Kenny was transported to the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, according to the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.

“It was freezing,” Kenny said.

Kenny later was released on personal recognizance under a $1092.50 bond, Martin said.

The deputy was fired from the sheriff’s department after an internal investigation, and a federal investigation is underway by Columbia FBI Field Office, the Civil Rights Division, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina.

The attorney representing Fields, Scott J. Hayes, released a statement about the incident Wednesday.

“We believe that Mr. Fields’ actions were justified and lawful throughout the circumstances of which he was confronted during this incident,” a portion of the statement reads. “To that extent, we believe that Mr. Fields’ actions were carried out professionally and that he was performing his job duties within the legal threshold.”

On Thursday, Hayes said his client could not comment further.

“We stand behind the statement that was issued yesterday, and respectfully decline to make further statement at this time, as the matter is currently under investigation with federal authorities,” he said.

Kenny said that at first, she was satisfied with Fields’ firing, but after further consideration believes he should be prosecuted. Her attorneys said the criminal charge against her — disturbing schools — needs to be resolved before they consider whether or not to sue the deputy and school district.

Though she didn’t personally know the girl Fields arrested, Kenny said she knew what was happening was not okay. She stood up and protested — including using profanity, which she says was justified by the severity of the situation. But it shouldn’t have fallen to her to defend the girl, she said.

“It should have been an adult, that’s what I think,” she said. “One of the adults should have said, ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa — that’s not how you do this.’ But instead, it had to be a student in the classroom to stand up and say, ‘This is not right.’”

Though her role in the incident has catapulted her to national fame — with her name being used as a hashtag on Twitter — Kenny said she has more important things to do than pay attention to the Internet chatter about her.

Kenny is not currently attending Spring Valley High School. Though she is free to return if she so chooses, she’s currently considering other options, according to her attorneys.

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