Readers React: The problem in the South Carolina police-student confrontation? The student, readers say.

Tossed student

Senior Deputy Ben Fields forcibly removes a student after she refused to leave her high school math class in Columbia, S.C. 

(Associated Press)

A cellphone video shot in a South Carolina classroom is horrifying for what it depicts: a police officer who walks over to a calm but willfully defiant 16-year-old student who had been using her cellphone and asked to leave class by her teacher, forcefully lurches her up and back toward the ground while she is still in her desk and then rips her from her seat and tosses her across the floor.

What most of our letter writers focus on is the defiant student; some imply or say outright she had it coming. Many readers engage in a sort of generational lashing out, saying too many of today’s students do not respect teachers or police and are more interested in their cellphones than their education.

Here are some of their letters.

Raiford Langford of Orange says some people need to learn to respect authority:


We should be talking about a lack of respect for teachers and resisting police, which forced the teacher and the officer to take action to return the classroom to a learning environment.

What did this girl do to cause the teacher to call for security? What did this girl do to cause the security officer to use such force to remove her from the classroom?

Let’s use this as another example of what happens to people who do not respect the authority of a teacher and who do not respect the authority of a police officer.

Today, if you disobey a lawful order from an officer, the officer is in trouble. Some people think this is progress.
P.J. Gendell, Beverly Hills


We need to remind some people that the police can use a lot of force to take individuals into custody. The more someone resists, the more force police use — and the police will win the fight.

Some people need to be taught courtesy and respect.

Fallbrook resident Gregg H. Wright notices a shift in attitude:

When I was in school in the 1930s, if I came home with a note for a parent to contact the school, the first thing asked of me was, “What did you do?”

By the time I had children and was a Scoutmaster, the typical response from parents was, “What did they do to you?”

Does this have any bearing on today’s problems?

Gary Hartzell of Manhattan Beach speaks from a school administrator’s point of view:

I understand that excessive force may have been used in this incident, but as a former high school vice principal for discipline who regularly dealt with these kinds of problems, I’d love to read how all the critics think the situation should have been handled.


It’s awfully easy to criticize what happened from the outside. Let’s hear what the critics might have done differently.

P.J. Gendell of Beverly Hills laments one kind of “progress”:

When I was growing up, if you disobeyed a lawful order from a police officer, you were in trouble. Today, if you disobey a lawful order from an officer, the officer is in trouble.

Some people think this is progress.

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