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NAACP decries 'knee on neck' restraint of Valhalla High student

Campus supervisor placed on paid leave
valhalla high school.png
Posted at 4:44 PM, Sep 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-03 21:25:27-04

EL CAJON, Calif. (KGTV) - A Valhalla High staffer has been put on paid administrative leave as an investigation begins into his role in breaking up a fight earlier this week.

The fight took place during lunchtime at Valhalla High on Tuesday.

A 53-second video being shared on social media shows two African-American girls fighting before a campus supervisor, who is white, steps in to break it up.

Within seconds, the campus supervisor — whose duties include student safety — has pushed both girls to the ground and attempts to restrain them, while they are still attacking each other.

RELATED: Grossmont Union High School District releases statement on 'lunch time altercation'

In the video, another staffer steps in and grabs one of the girls, who stands up and appears to calm down.

The campus supervisor attempts to restrain the other student, as she continues to resist. Seconds later, she appears subdued, as the supervisor's arm is pressed near her face and neck.

The remaining 13 seconds of the video isn't clear, as the phone moves back and forth. In a separate still image being shared online, the supervisor's knee is seen pressed against the girl's neck while she's on the ground

Francine Maxwell, who heads the local branch of the NAACP, has seen several videos of the incident and calls the incident a case of excessive force.

“I viewed that there was more than 30 seconds with the knee being placed on a young African American’s neck … After the murder of Mr. George Floyd, people were supposed to go through de-escalation techniques. There are other tools that don’t have to resemble the carotid restraint,” said Maxwell.

“It’s very concerning. The leg is the strongest part of the human body it has tremendous strength, you also have the weight of the body. To have that pressure on the neck can cause some serious issues,” said Kevin LaChapelle, former El Cajon Police officer.

It's unclear if the student suffered any injuries.

In a video statement, Grossmont Union Superintendent Theresa Kemper promised an investigation and transparency.

“We’ll be as open as we possibly can about the situation,” said Kemper. "Some students and staff are still feeling the effects of what happened on Tuesday, in light of the events that have taken place in America over the last two years, it’s completely understandable that students and members of our school community are upset.”

According to school district policy, employees are prohibited from using any restraints that impair a student's breathing.

The local NAACP is calling for the campus supervisor to be fired. The group issued the following statement:

"Have we as a society learned nothing about excessive force? Are we still, after all this time, willing to allow reckless and dangerous amounts of force to be used by 'peace' officers? Are we really OK with this level of force being used against children? We found this picture on social media. We think it sums up the lack of change in our society, despite all the pledges and promises that were made in the wake of Mr. George Floyd’s murder.

We acknowledge that the fight that took place between two Black girls was bad. We acknowledge that there was a need to restrain and separate them to stop the fight. We acknowledge that one young lady was out of control, but once the other girl was removed, there was no reason to continue to restrain her and force her to submit.

She continued to struggle because a White man was aggressively trying to restrain her. Struggling for release is a perfectly normal, natural and healthy instinct, and we do not blame her for this. Why did he have to continue with his efforts to assert his control? She did not have a weapon (neither girl did), and neither girl was in conflict with other students. In fact, the excessive force used caused the students looking to get agitated, making his continued effort at total domination a cause of danger, not safety.

This man is a retired member of the Sheriff’s Department and it makes us all the more upset to see a White man associated with Law Enforcement abusing a Black woman. There have been plenty of fights (among white kids) on this campus and this kind of force is not used.

The video from the school is obstructed by trees. The video from students has a better view. He claims he had her on her side but in the heat of his frustration he pushed her on her stomach and used his knee. We are unclear why his 'frustration' justified the use of a tactic we know to be lethal. This girl weighs some 105 pounds, is 14 years old, and it was her first day on campus. The other young lady attacked her first. She is a student from a group home, is on an IEP, and is BLACK.

We asked the district to do something for our students when the incident with Mr. George Floyd happened. They didn't do enough. There was a Black face incident on our campus and nothing was done. There is a staff member that uses the N-word and nothing was done.

It is long past time for something to be done. No more insincere statements, no more lip service, no more 'training' without follow-through. There need to be CONSEQUENCES for violent racist behavior from people under color of authority. When school districts like Grossmont or San Diego Unified aren’t willing to clean house themselves, there are avenues at the State and Federal level to force them to do so, and we will be pursuing those."