This is the law that justified that violent South Carolina arrest

South Carolina statehouse
(Image credit: Davis Turner/Getty Images)

The school police officer caught on camera violently arresting a student in her classroom in South Carolina has been fired — but the law that justified his decision to make an arrest is still on the books.

The charge the officer had in mind was "disturbing a school," a misdemeanor offense with fines up to $1,000 and penalties of as much as three months in jail:

SECTION 16-17-420. Disturbing schools; summary court jurisdiction.(A) It shall be unlawful:(1) for any person willfully or unnecessarily (a) to interfere with or to disturb in any way or in any place the students or teachers of any school or college in this State, (b) to loiter about such school or college premises or (c) to act in an obnoxious manner thereon; or(2) for any person to (a) enter upon any such school or college premises or (b) loiter around the premises, except on business, without the permission of the principal or president in charge. [South Carolina Legislature]

The remarkably vague language of the law has long drawn criticism, but it passed a challenge at the state Supreme Court nine years ago after a student argued that prohibiting something as undefined as "obnoxious behavior" could limit First Amendment rights. State Rep. Todd Rutherford has indicated that he will both provide legal counsel to the students involved in this incident and push for a change to the law when the South Carolina legislature is back in session.

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Bonnie Kristian

Bonnie Kristian was a deputy editor and acting editor-in-chief of She is a columnist at Christianity Today and author of Untrustworthy: The Knowledge Crisis Breaking Our Brains, Polluting Our Politics, and Corrupting Christian Community (forthcoming 2022) and A Flexible Faith: Rethinking What It Means to Follow Jesus Today (2018). Her writing has also appeared at Time Magazine, CNN, USA Today, Newsweek, the Los Angeles Times, and The American Conservative, among other outlets.