An Instagram photo of a Pittsburg, Calif. high school principal grasping a 15-year-old female student in a choke hold has led to 10 students getting suspended for posting derogatory comments accompanying the photo on line.
The photo, seen at right, shows Principal Todd Whitmire breaking up a fight between the girl, Ashley Johnson, and a boy who has not been named. But once the cell phone photo appeared on the popular social networking site Instagram, other students began reposting it on their Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, often accompanied by nasty remarks.
"It was the reposting, the retweeting, and keeping it alive and assigning negative comments to it and creating a hostile environment” that led Whitmire to suspend the 10 students, he told the Contra Costa Times newspaper.
Johnson and the boy in the fight were also suspended.
Whitmire also said that the photo creates an inaccurate perception of what happened as he was breaking up the inter-gender brawl. He did not place Johnson in a choke-hold, he says.
"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," the principal explained.
Johnson is now saying that the principal injured her neck. She was seen at school wearing a neck brace, which she also wore when interviewed on camera by KTVU TV. The video of that story can be seen below. However, the Contra Costa Time report said that she was later seen moving around a classroom in no apparent discomfort.
The 10 students were suspended under provisions of a California cyber-bullying law passed in 2012 which specifically targets abusive posts on social networking sites including Instagram and Facebook.
"It's a tool for educators to use," said Peggy Marshburn, spokesperson for Contra Costa County’s office of education. "That was not something that school districts had before."
SOURCES: Conta Costa Times, KDSK TV