Wake County Schools

Panther Creek incident calls for closer look into policies for restraining students

The day after a video circulating showed a school employee placing a knee on a student's neck at Panther Creek High School, the assistant principal was suspended.

Posted Updated

Matt Talhelm
, WRAL reporter
CARY, N.C. — The Wake County school employee seen in a viral video appearing to put his knee on the neck of a student, Assistant Principal Jonathan Chang, was suspended with pay on Friday as the school system investigates the incident.

Cary Police are also investigating Chang's actions, "conducting a thorough review of the incident, including viewing multiple pieces of video and talking to witnesses," according to a statement from the department.

“We’re asking the public not to rush to judgment before we are able to conclude our investigation,” said interim Police Chief Terry Sult. “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.”

A letter sent to parents from Panther Creek's principal on Thursday said that school staff responded to a fight between two students during lunch Tuesday.

Cary police said a student became physical with a school resource officer. That interaction was not captured on video. Twenty-four seconds of video posted to Tik Tok shows a Cary Police school resource officer pulling back the student's hands while Chang appears to kneel on the student's neck. The officer was still on duty Friday.

WRAL News reached Chang's wife on Friday, but she declined to comment while the investigation is pending.

"Why is the administrator on the student’s neck if they’re already being restrained by the law enforcement official?" asked Letha Muhammad, who leads a grassroots group in Wake County that helps students and parents understand their rights.

"The student on the ground – what must he be feeling, his family feeling?" she said.

WRAL News asked whether the school resource officer should have intervened between Chang and the student but did not get an answer to that question.

Wake County Public School System policy allows for physical restraint of a student for reasons that include obtaining possession of a weapon from a student, breaking up a fight, self-defense and ensuring safety of students and staff.

Cary Police said none of the three people involved in the altercation – Chang, the officer and the student – were injured.

"I do think there needs to be something tightened up about that policy that actually spells out what would be reasonable and appropriate restraints that would be used by school officials," Muhammad said.

In a statement, the Wake County chapter of the North Carolina Association of Educators, wrote: “This is unacceptable as it is our job to protect the health and safety of all our students.

“None of the training we are familiar with, including Wake County's training, recommend putting a knee on a child's neck.”


Copyright 2023 by Capitol Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.