It has been widely circulated in news and social media that the mother and grandmother of the girl that recently-fired deputy Ben Fields attacked at Spring Valley High School on Monday had recently died. It has also been reported that the girl is in foster care.
But in an interview that her attorney, Todd Rutherford, did with Joe Madison on the Black Eagle Sirius XM station, both women are alive. Rutherford, who is also the minority leader of the South Carolina State House, said he’d met with the girl and her mother together and later with her grandmother. He would not confirm whether the girl is in foster care. (The attorney used the girl’s first name, but Colorlines is not reporting it at this time.)
In the Madison interview, Rutherford also noted that her representatives are having trouble setting up a GoFundMe page because people have been creating fake and/or competing accounts.
In addition, the attorney took a moment to criticize the widespread narrative that blames the girl for the attack because she would not turn over her cell phone when told by her teacher.
I truly want to address those people that think that anytime a child is told to do something, they ought to do it or these are the consequences. These should never be the consequences for any child sitting in their seat simply trying to learn. Never. This is not a child with a great deal of means, this is not a child [for whom] a cell phone came easy. This is a child who when the teacher said, "Put your cell phone up or give it here"—this is probably the most valuable thing that that child has. For the teacher to try to take that, for her it was shocking.
So how did the story of the orphaned girl spread? In a piece published Thursday afternoon, The Root connected it to a New York Daily News story that allegedly misquotes Rutherford and has since been corrected. At press time Colorlines’ Google search did not immediately yield the original story or a correction that indicates that the paper, which recently hired writer and activist Shaun King, misquoted the attorney. King posted a first-person column Thursday morning stating that the girl is in foster care. The paper ran a news article headlined "South Carolina student who was assaulted by deputy Ben Fields is living in foster care, says her lawyer," on Wednesday shortly after 8 p.m.
Misinformation about the girl’s plight comes weeks after another black child, 3-year-old Cayden Shelton, was described as alone and feral in an article online. The source of Shelton’s picture and news of his alleged feral state came from a racist Facebook thread that his mother’s coworker, Gerod Roth, posted. Roth was fired as a result.