South Carolina

Kingstree police investigate altercation between high school official and student

A 15-year-old Kingstree high school student was taken to a local hospital Tuesday after a school official allegedly held her in a choke hold long enough to cause unconsciousness.

Kingstree High School assistant principal Henry Burgess and another man apparently intervened to break up a fight between two female students. A video of the incident shows Burgess trying to restrain one of the girls, wrapping his arm around her neck, which she resists. At some point she goes limp and Burgess releases her.

The girl’s mother, armed with the cellphone video of the event, urged the local police to take action.

Yolanda Nesmith told the Kingstree News newspaper she is angry about how the incident was handled. “She (her daughter) could have died from this,” Nesmith said.

After viewing the video, the Kingstree police and Williamsburg County magistrate Judge William C. Driggers determined there was enough evidence of an assault to arrest Burgess.

After a meeting at the high school Tuesday afternoon, the magistrate decided, against the advice of the investigating officer, that a ‘courtesy summons’ instead of an arrest warrant would be issued against Burgess. The investigator argued for a warrant, writing in his incident report that Burgess was a threat to the community as evidenced by his choking a 15-year-old girl until she passed out.

An investigation into the incident continues as authorities await a medical report about the girl’s injuries from the local hospital.

Yolanda Nesmith told the local newspaper she does not condone her daughter’s fighting.

“I always tell my kids they’re not supposed to fight. You’re supposed to let somebody know what’s going on. But if you get into a situation where you have no choice but to defend yourself, then I do condone my daughter defending herself, “ she told the Kingstree News.

For its part, the Williamsburg County School District released a statement Thursday night saying school officials try to assist students in resolving conflicts and have specially trained staff on hand to help in conflict resolution.

“Annually, counselors and administrators participate in Crisis Nonviolence Technique Training that provides them with the knowledge needed during physical altercations,” the statement read.

No comment was made about this particular incident. The district said it is investigating the incident and working with local authorities.