PITTSBURG, Calif. - A photo of a California high school principal with a girl in a choke hold led to the suspensions of ten students Monday after it went viral on Facebook.
The principal of Pittsburg High School, Todd Whitmire, said the photo was taken last Friday as he restrained a 15-year-old student who refused to stop fighting with another male student.
"It certainly doesn't show what happened," he said.
He said the photo went viral almost immediately.
He said he wasn't that concerned that the photo of him was taken out of context as much as he worried about the demeaning and racist comments written by students about the situation.
On Monday, he suspended ten students who had forwarded a version of the photo, on which inappropriate captions had been added.
Whitmire said a total of 12 students were suspended, two of them for fighting, the others for their social media activity.
Some students said Tuesday that they thought suspension was an extreme punishment because the students were only exercising their right to free speech.
Whitmire says monitoring social media is commonplace at schools and that what happened at Pittsburg High School was something that could happen anywhere.
“What was disappointing was the [kind of] comments associated--racist comments, derogatory comments,” said Whitmore.
The female student in the photo, Ashley Johnson, was wearing a neck brace Tuesday.
Johnson said that she was drawn into the fight last Friday after a male student twice her size slammed her into a wall.
She claims that she was not fighting back but that the principal grabbed her anyway.
“I wasn't fighting back. I was lying on the ground,” said Johnson.
Johnson said Tuesday that she holds the principal responsible for her injury, alleging that he used too much force to restrain her.