Principal accused of putting student in chokehold

Baker County School Principal Dr. Torrance Shoates. / Jessica Fairley

The principal of Baker County School is in the hot seat after a 14-year-old student alleges that he assaulted him on school grounds. The child says students watched as 1st year Principal Dr. Torrance Shoates choked him to the ground inside a classroom.

On Tuesday, a day before the incident allegedly occurred, Marie Lopez, the child's mother, says she stopped by the school to have a meeting with the principal. She says her son had been written up and she wanted to get to the bottom of the reason why.

After the meeting, the child was granted in school suspension (ISS) but under one condition. The mother says she warned the principal that she did not believe in corporal punishment and he could not put his hands on her child. She says when she got the call from her son; she knew something had gone wrong.

"He was sent to ISS and told that he would do two days. Well today (on Wednesday) the principal said that it would be three days, that he added a day on and it stemmed from that," said Marie Lopez, Mother of Student.

Lopez says the principal pushed the child and he who pushed him back. That's when she says Dr. Shoates put her son in a chokehold, took him to the ground, and proceeded to punch him in the face.

"When I arrived to the school, the child's face was swollen and red. He had finger prints on his chest where the principal had grabbed him on the chest," said Lopez.

Soon after the mother arrived, so did police.

"We responded to the call, me and one of the deputies from the Baker County Sheriff's Department. After talking to the students and the principal, I thought it would be a good idea to go ahead and contact the GBI and that's what it did," said Newton Police Chief Aubrey Suggs.

Special Agent Jeremy C. Howell with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Region 15 Field Office met with the family at the Newton City Hall. Their statement along with witnesses were taken and followed by a visit to the school.

Fox 31 reached out to Baker County school officials and was told the superintendant, or school spokesperson, is expected to be out for the remainder of the week. The mother of the student says she hopes this issue isn't overlooked while he's out.

Agent Howell with the GBI of Sylvester were not able to comment because he had just started the investigation.