COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Students at Spring Valley High School staged a brief walkout in support of school resource officer Ben Fields, the Richland County sheriff's deputy caught on camera slamming and dragging a student out of a desk earlier this week.
Hundreds of students walked out of class around 10 a.m. and into the school's atrium before school administrators returned the students to class.
Principal Jeff Temoney told the students none of them would be suspended if they returned to class.
"We've heard your voices, okay," Temoney said. "We appreciate you taking time to do this, but again, as you know, we always focus on teaching and learning, so let's head on back to class."
Video and photos from the incident captured by students show many of them saying "Free Fields" or wearing T-shirts that say "#BringBackFields."
Fields was fired by Sheriff Leon Lott earlier this week after video of the incident between him and a female student exploded on social media and sparked a nationwide discussion on school resource officers and use of force.
Several students said those 15 seconds don't reflect the Ben Fields they know.
"He was a great guy," student London Harrell said. "He protected us and everything. He was our school resource officer. We always could depend on him and everything. Every time I saw him, he was always joking around with people. It was never like 'Oh, I'm about to body slam you.'"
"We believe that Mr. Fields' actions were justified and lawful throughout the circumstances of which he was confronted during this incident," the attorney's statement said.
We've reached out to the district, who called the walkout "small" and "orderly."
Temoney also released a statement from the school several hours later and said the students and staff were safe during the protest.
"At no time, were any students or staff in any danger. School is carrying on in a safe and productive manner today," the statement said.
Parents have said the protests could continue once school lets out. There is also a football game at Spring Valley in just a few hours.