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10 Bay Area students suspended over Instagram photo flap

October 11, 2013|By Jason Wells

A Bay Area high school has suspended 10 students who shared an Instagram photo tagged with derogatory comments that appeared to show the principal restraining a girl in a chokehold during an on-campus brawl.

Todd Whitmire, principal of Pittsburg High School, told the Contra Costa Times it wasn’t the act of posting the photo that led to the suspensions, but rather the comments that were posted, which he said amounts to cyberbullying via the social network.

"It was the reposting, the retweeting, and keeping it alive and assigning negative comments to it and creating a hostile environment" for the girl, he told the paper of the posts that followed an alleged fight between her and another student last week.

The physical fight between the ninth-grade girl and a male classmate occurred during a brawl among a handful of students in the campus quad area, according to school officials.

When Whitmire intervened to separate the two, “she fell and he fell down with her,” Dorothy Epps, associate superintendent for the Pittsburg Unified School District, told the Contra Costa Times.

That’s when another student used a cellphone to take a photo, which quickly went viral.

In an interview with KTVU-TV, Whitmire said the photo distorts what actually happened and only makes it appear like he has the girl in a chokehold.

“This really is not a description of what actually happened,” he said.

District officials cited a beefed up state anti-cyberbullying law that now covers posts on social media networking sites, such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, in justifying the suspensions.


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