Assistant principal suspended at Panther Creek after video showed someone kneel on student's neck

Friday, December 10, 2021
Cary PD: Incident at Panther Creek HS started with attack on SRO
Panther Creek High School Assistant Principal Jonathan Chang has been suspended with pay a day after a video showed a school official kneeling on the neck of a student.

CARY, N.C. (WTVD) -- The Cary Police Department said the incident at Panther Creek High School where video shows a faculty member's knee on a student's neck started with a verbal altercation and led to an attack on a school resource officer first.

The incident, according to investigators, took place Tuesday around lunchtime.

"We're asking the public not to rush to judgment before we are able to conclude our investigation," interim Police Chief Terry Sult told ABC11. "We know there is video that has people concerned, especially because it involves a student, so it's even more important that we take our time and be as thorough and sensitive to the events surrounding the incident as possible."

The SRO is an officer with the Cary Police Department, and detectives report he was called by other teachers to help diffuse a tense situation. One student, officers explained, became physical with the officer. Cary Police added that there are "several" videos and witnesses.

In one video obtained by ABC11, the SRO is not the person restraining the student with a knee on the neck, and experts told ABC11 that is significant because it underscores the immense challenges for SROs in a big school like Panther Creek.

"The 15 seconds to 30 seconds, whatever it is, from the time that encounter begins until you have them in custody - there's no way to make that look good," Mo Canady, Executive Director of the National Association of School Resource Officers, told ABC11. "Sometimes you have circumstances where it's the way that if you're trying to put a person to the ground, it's the way they land, the way you fall on them in that moment, and it can look horrible and unintentional. It's so easy to Monday morning quarterback these situations."

At Wake County Public Schools there is generally one SRO assigned to each high school, according to administrators. The SROs are sworn law enforcement officers and are employed officially by the local law enforcement agency, which includes municipal departments and the county sheriff's office.

Still, one SRO is hardly enough to cover a student population that is sometimes bigger than the municipality itself.

"In most cases, SROs are on an island, Canady said. "I think if you ask any law enforcement agency in the country they'll tell you they're shorthanded - and schools are a microcosm of the community so the same things occur there."

School staff at Wake County Public Schools, and indeed across the state, are mandated by law to attend specific training for "Seclusion and Restraint."

North Carolina State Statutes, moreover, require administrators to "provide school staff with clear guidelines about what constitutes use of reasonable force permissible in North Carolina public schools."

In WCPSS materials provided to ABC11, teachers are encouraged to "use their professional judgment to determine how best to address the situation to protect the safety of everyone in the vicinity... only the degree of force or physical control reasonably necessary shall be used to re-establish a safe environment."

Thursday night, Wake County confirmed that a school employee had been suspended after a physical encounter with students at Panther Creek. On Friday, administrators confirmed that the school's assistant principal, Jonathan Chang, was suspended, however, the school insisted because of personnel confidentiality they would not confirm whether Chang was involved in the incident.

There has also been no official confirmation or witness statements to ABC11 that Chang was the teacher in the video.