Facebook photo of school principal appearing to grab student in chokehold leads to students’ suspension
A California administrator is seen clutching the gasping ninth-grader around the neck – but Todd Whitmire says the photo of him and Ashley Johnson has to be put into context.
BY NINA GOLGOWSKI / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2013, 7:43 AM
A shocking photo of a high school principal appearing to grab a student in a chokehold has led to the suspension of 10 students after its posting on Facebook.
But the California principal who’s seen clutching the gasping ninth-grader around the neck, resulting in her wearing a neck brace, says the photo is not what it seems.
“I had separated her and she began struggling and I was pushing her away to get her away from the area and she fell down,” Pittsburgh High School Principal Todd Whitmire told the Contra Costa Times.
California high school Principal Todd Whitmire is not facing any charges after appearing to put Ashley Johnson in a chokehold. He argues that she slipped and fell while he was holding her.
Whitmire says it was after two ninth-graders pounced on one another in an on-campus fight last Friday that his own physical force became necessary in intervening.
Just after he allegedly pushed back 15-year-old Ashley Johnson to separate her, the photo was snapped by a cellphone and uploaded to Facebook, where Whitmire says racist and derogatory comments followed.
“It was the reposting, the retweeting, and keeping it alive and assigning negative comments to it and creating a hostile environment” that Whitmire told the Times led to the 10 students’ suspension.
Ashley Johnson, 15, says her high school principal injured her neck while intervening in a fight between her and another student.
The suspension of the two teens physically involved in the fight has since upped that number to 12.
Seen lying in a neck brace at home Tuesday, Johnson told KTVU that Whitmire’s side of the story is a bit farfetched.
“I wasn’t fighting back I just laid there on the ground,” she said through carefully pressed lips.
In an interview at home Tuesday the ninth-grader showed herself as unable to move from her injury. School video taken the day before allegedly shows her moving around just fine, however.
Johnson now blames Whitmire for her injury, which in her at-home interview showed has apparently made her unable to move.
A video taken in a classroom Monday by a school resource officer, however, shows her comfortably moving around, the Times reports.
Lt. Ron Raman, who was already on campus with several officers when the fight occurred, told the Times that there is no evidence battery took place and charges against the principal are not pending.
Again it was students’ now closely monitored activity on social media that Raman says tipped him and the other officers off to a planned fight that day at the school, leading to their abundant presence.
Since 2012, a California state law has strengthened anti-cyber bullying laws to include posts on social media sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.