Columbia, SC (WLTX) - A former Richland County high school student who recorded a controversial video showing a school resource officer forcibly removing a student from her desk is now suing the Richland County Sheriff’s Department and Richland School District Two.
Niya Kenny and her attorneys discussed their suit at a news conference Wednesday afternoon in Columbia.
"We're hoping that this will never happen to any other student in District Two again," Kenny told reporters.
The October 2015 incident at Spring Valley High School made national headlines. Former Deputy Ben Fields was fired after video showed him dragging a student out of the desk after she refused to give up her cell phone and refused to leave the classroom.
Kenny, who recorded the incident on her cell phone and spoke up as a witness, was arrested and charged with disturbing schools. The student who was dragged faced the same charge.
Both had the charges dropped nearly a year later.
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Kenny filed the lawsuit Tuesday for injuries sustained in what her lawyer--former state lawmaker Bakari Sellers--calls negligent, reckless, and defamatory conduct by the Sheriff’s Department and School District. She is seeking monetary damages, also citing false imprisonment and false arrest.
The suit details the events of the day, claiming Kenny was put in handcuffs and paraded around three offices at Spring Valley High School from 11 a.m. to the 1:30 p.m. before being put in a “paddy wagon” with other adults arrested throughout the county. The lawsuit says Kenny was in the Richland County Detention Center for nearly eight hours.
"No parent should have to see their kid arrested, handcuffed on school grounds, kept handcuffed, moved from one office to another office to another office for two hours, be paraded through the school, through the cafeteria, in front of her friends," Sellers said.
The lawsuit claims Kenny was wrongly expelled, forced to miss her prom, and graduation. She eventually got her GED, she says.
"It was just one of the most traumatizing things I had ever experienced. I just couldn't believe that they allowed me to be transported to jail," Kenny said.
Fields was fired two days after the incident. The Sheriff said he didn't use proper procedure to remove and restrain the student. He has maintained the teen struck him several times while he grabbed her out of the seat. Earlier this year, he filed a lawsuit against the Sheriff's Department, claiming it put out false information that ruined his reputation.
The Richland County Sheriff's Department says they cannot comment on the lawsuit because it is pending litigation. The Richland County School District Two said they do not have a comment on the lawsuit and referred us to previous statements on their website made on the incident.
Kenny said she's now moved to New York City, and is interning with the African-American Policy Forum.