The US Justice Department is looking into why a female student in South Carolina was pulled from her desk by an officer and dragged across a classroom.
Spokeswoman Dena Iverson said the investigation will look into “the circumstances surrounding the arrest” to see if a federal law was broken.
The incident occurred at Spring Valley High School in Columbia when the unnamed student refused to leave class.
Video shows the officer knocking her down and pulling her across the floor.
The officer, Ben Fields, has been placed on leave and there has been an outcry from various civil rights and parents’ groups.
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, who asked for federal help to investigate, said he wanted to avoid a “conflict of interest”.
The FBI, which will carry out the probe, said in a statement it would “collect all available facts and evidence”.
The South Carolina Law Enforcement Division will assist in the investigation as well.
Student Tony Robinson, who recorded the video, told news station WLTX that the altercation began when the girl took her mobile phone out during class and would not put it away when asked.
School administration then summoned an officer, who asked her to move. She replied that she had not done anything wrong, and then Mr Fields grabbed her.
“When I saw what was going to happen, my immediate first thing to think was, let me get this on camera. This was going to be something … that everyone else needs to see, something that we can’t just let this pass by. That was wrong, and there’s no justifiable reason for him as to why he did that to that girl,” he said.
Mr Fields had been assigned to the school and was meant to protect students and faculty and promote anti-crime and anti-drug initiatives.
The state’s ACLU said such “egregious use of force” against young people in class was “outrageous”.
South Carolina’s education superintendent expressed concern and the state’s National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) has said the officer should be charged.
What does a ‘School Resource Officer’ do?
- places an officer in a school full-time as part of a “community policing” practice
- offers programmes to reduce “crime, drug abuse, violence and provide a safe school environment”
- accompanies school groups to athletic events and school trips
- for younger children, they provide anti-drug programming
- described as having schools as their “beat”
The officer is white and the female student, who was unharmed, is black, the sheriff’s office said.
The incident comes at a time of increased scrutiny of police and their use of force against African Americans.
One group called the Richland Black Parents Association said the video “revealed what many African American parents have experienced in this district for a very long time.”