EL CAJON, Calif. – A campus supervisor at Valhalla High School should stay on paid administrative leave to complete additional training and be assigned to a different school after putting his knee on a student’s neck while breaking up a fight last month, an independent investigator says in a report released Wednesday.
The report by investigator Dominic Quiller found that the supervisor’s actions constituted “an inappropriate physical restraint” on a 14-year-old girl as he broke up the fight between her and another 14-year-old Aug. 31 during lunchtime at the El Cajon high school.
Video of the incident led justice advocates to call on the Grossmont Union High School District to fire the supervisor, comparing his actions to those of the Minneapolis police officer convicted of killing George Floyd last year.
In the report, Quiller examines the parallel with the Floyd case, but argues that there’s “no evidence” that the supervisor, a white former sheriff’s deputy, “responded in the manner that he did due to race.”
Quiller does state, however, that the response from employees including the supervisor, “appear to be excessive.” He says the supervisor impaired the student’s respiratory airway and restricted her breathing by restraining her with a knee on her neck.
“Student B is a 14-year-old girl, yet there are four men, one of whom is almost 7 feet, holding her down, and at one point holding her in an elevated hogtie position,” the report states. “To be sure, the students themselves immediately perceived the excessiveness of the employees’ actions which is why they immediately closed in on the aleraction presumably to protect their classmate from further harm.”
The supervisor, identified in the report as Employee A, has been on administrative leave since Sept. 1.
Quiller’s report does not recommend firing the employee, stating that his actions were “in part due to a lack of training.” It also notes that the employee believes himself to be the victim in the incident by stating that he “did the best he could.”
“Social and emotional immaturity is to be expected from high school students, hence the need for supervisors to serve as ‘role models,’ the report said. “By portraying himself as the victim, it does not appear that he understands his superior standing on campus.”
He further recommends that Valhalla — which has tallied 13 incidents involving race dating back to Aug. 2019 — implement “more robust cultural sensitivity training.”
In releasing the redacted report, Grossmont Union High Superintendent Theresa Kemper said the district intends to follow Quiller’s guidance because the supervisor’s violation of the district’s restraint policy was due, in part, to “a deficiency in our otherwise robust campus supervisor training.”
“As a district, we own what’s in this report,” Kemper said. “We have a board policy in place to prevent this from happening, but our training – as robust as it was – needed to be stronger.
“So my message to the student is this: I’m sorry. This shouldn’t have happened.”
That response remains insufficient to the NAACP San Diego Branch, which called for the supervisor’s firing in a statement released Thursday. The organization said it remains “deeply concerned” about the incident and lays the blame at the district’s feet for the lack of training.
“The district must also inform the public of the results of this review and the steps taken to assure its employees are properly trained to supervise and interact with students,” they said in the statement. “Furthermore, the GUHSD and the Valhalla administration must implement the investigator’s recommendation. NAACP San Diego Branch stands ready to assist the district in this effort.”
Quiller’s report is posted below in its entirety.