Two Central Coast educators who were accused of battering students have evaded charges following a conclusion by the San Luis Obispo County District Attorney’s Office that the crime of battery could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in either case.
One of the two school officials, Mission Prep administrator Russ Griffith, was photographed during a school lunch placing a student in a chokehold. The other educator, an Atascadero High teacher and coach, allegedly assaulted a student who was misbehaving in class.
Last November, Griffith, a former San Luis Obispo police officer, restrained a star of the Mission Prep football team in a carotid chokehold, a move generally used by law enforcement to restrain violent or combative individuals. Griffith allegedly placed the Mission Prep football player in the chokehold in response to the student using profanity.
The student did not suffer injuries during the alleged assault. San Luis Obispo police investigated the incident and forwarded a report to the district attorney’s office.
Griffith went on and off administrative leave from Mission Prep in the weeks following the incident.
Fewer details have emerged in the case of Christopher Ferree, who has coached wrestling and other sports at Atascadero High, in addition to teaching. No photos or video footage of Feree’s alleged classroom altercation have surfaced publicly.
As SLO police did with the Mission Prep case, Atascadero police investigated the alleged assault and forwarded a report to the district attorney’s office.
Prosecutors reviewed both cases concurrently because they both involved alleged misconduct by a school official in response to perceived student misbehavior, the district attorney’s office stated in a news release. Over the course of the investigation, prosecutors interviewed students and faculty, reviewed documents and conducted legal research.
The district attorney’s office opted not to file charges against Griffith or Ferree, at least in part, because witnesses provided conflicting accounts of the nature and the extent of force that the educators used. Witnesses also provided conflicting accounts of the student conduct that initiated the incidents, according to the district attorney’s office.
Additionally, California Education Code allows a school official to use physical control over a student in an amount “reasonably necessary to maintain order” or to “maintain proper and appropriate conditions conducive to learning.” The code serves as a defense against a battery charge, the DA’s Office said.