One of the South Carolina students at the center of the infamous 2015 Spring Valley High School police arrest that went viral is raising awareness about girls of color in the school-to-prison pipeline.
The Huffington Post met with Niya Kenny, the student who spoke out and urged classmates to record Richland County Deputy Ben Fields violently arrest a 16-year-old female student over her refusal to turn over her mobile phone or leave the classroom. One year later, Kenny, now a high school graduate, interns at the African American Policy Forum, a nonprofit think tank focused on achieving equality.
Kenny was arrested for “disturbing a school” and until September faced the possibility of being prosecuted for simply speaking up. She told The Post that condemning the officer’s excessive use of force made her aware of the school-to-prison pipeline, and she stands proud today of her actions.
“Honestly, if I could go back, I wouldn’t change anything,” she said. “It was like the universe brought me there that day.”
Many school districts nationwide have zero tolerance policies that disproportionately affect Black students. An abundance of law enforcement officers assigned to schools step into the disciplinary process—often for minor, nonviolent offenses—to arrest students.
The Post said Kenny now works alongside Kimberlé Crenshaw, a co-founder of AAPF and a law professor, who underscores that people focus on Black boys in the pipeline but fail to recognize that girls of color are suspended at six times the rate of White girls.
“Niya’s case alone is simply a powerful example about how leadership skills and courage and the ability to reason right from wrong … get turned into a justification for bringing them into the juvenile justice system,” Crenshaw stated.
She added: “[Black] girls in particular tend to run into trouble because they’re seen as defiant, they’re seen as having an attitude or being in need of discipline rather than being rewarded and recognized for exercising leadership.”
Ultimately, the U.S. Department of Justice got involved in the Spring Valley case and the charges against Kenny and her classmate, Shakara, were dropped. The DOJ reached an agreement with the Richland County Sheriff Department, in which the sheriff’s office will provide annual training on de-escalation and unbiased policing to its deputies who serve schools.
SOURCE: Huffington Post | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty, Twitter
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