Suspension lifted for Florin student whose cellphone fight video went viral

The Elk Grove Unified School District is rescinding its suspension of a Florin High School student who recorded a lunchtime campus fight on her cellphone, her parents said Monday.

Tiana Johnson, 15, received a three-day suspension after she recorded an Oct. 26 cafeteria fight during which Principal Don Ross was thrown to the floor when he tried to break up the students involved. Johnson posted her video online, and it subsequently brought national media attention to the south Sacramento campus.

Delia Orosco, Johnson’s mother, said she was invited to the principal’s office Monday and advised that the suspension would not go on her daughter’s school record and that Johnson could return to school on Tuesday. Johnson has served two of the three days of her suspension.

District spokeswoman Xanthi Pinkerton said Monday she could not comment on a student disciplinary case. She said the most important issue “is that on the rare occasion that there is a large fight, our staff immediately acts to stop the fight while simultaneously directing students away for their own safety and the well-being of others.”

The district’s Oct. 26 “report of home suspension” cited willful defiance and said Johnson had violated the student handbook by making the recording and then posting “inflammatory” remarks on social media. It said those remarks “directly contributed to the whole situation” and that she later “admitted” she had posted the recording on Facebook.

Free speech experts last week questioned the legality of that suspension, saying that Johnson was recording video in a public place and had the right to distribute her video.

Orosco said when she met with the principal and two other school administrators for about 30 minutes Monday, they told her “it was more of a safety issue.”

“She was asked to leave” the area of the fight, Orosco said, relaying the explanation from administrators. “They said because students were walking toward the site and recording it, it caused a safety issue because it prevented them from being able to apprehend the boy involved in slamming Mr. Ross” to the ground.

Ross was trying to break up a brawl involving eight to 10 students. After Ross was thrown to the floor, he jumped back up in an effort to restrain his assailant. He and two other school officials suffered minor injuries.

Three Florin students – two 15-year-olds and a 13-year-old – were arrested and sent to juvenile hall. They have not been identified by authorities because they are minors.