Joel Franco, the 17-year-old aspiring journalist from Miami who’s been written about on PINAC before, was threatened with a ten-day suspension today if he didn’t delete a video showing a school security guard body slamming another student to the ground.
The high school junior said that up until then, he was steadfastly refusing to delete the video, even after a security guard grabbed him from behind and shoved him against the wall.
But a ten-day suspension could cause “major setbacks” for him at American High School in Hialeah, a working class suburb in Miami-Dade County, so he reluctantly obliged.
“When they told me I would be suspended, I started panicking,” he said in a telephone interview with Photography is Not a Crime.
“I didn’t want to ruin everything for a video, so I deleted it.”
But he’s not happy about it and now he is trying to recover the video from his Samsung Galaxy phone.
I advised him not to record anything else on it until he recovered the video before providing him with a link to PhotoRec, a free program which was very efficient in recovering the video that was deleted by Miami-Dade police after my January arrest.
But I’m not sure if it would work on a smart phone, so if anybody has any suggestions, please list them in the comments.
The incident began during lunchtime outside the school cafeteria when Franco noticed a couple of his friends, a boy and a girl, getting into an argument.
Franco wasn’t sure why they were arguing about, but it had something to do with something that was said on Twitter.
“I saw that it was escalating, so I pulled out my phone to start filming,” he said.
A crowd quickly gathered and as the boy got more confrontational, several students grabbed the boy from behind before the altercation became physical.
Then a hulking security guard, who Franco describes as being the size of a football lineman, grabbed the boy from behind.
When the student tried to pull away from the security guard, the guard spun him around and slammed him to the ground.
“It was pretty hard because his glasses fell off,” Franco said. “I picked up his glasses and gave it them back to him.”
Once the chaos had subsided, a crowd of students gathered around Franco, wanting to see the video.
That drew the attention of another security guard, who demanded he hand his phone over.
“I said, ‘no, I have the right to film,’ but he kept asking for it and I just kept repeating that I have the right to film,” he said.
“I started to walk away because it was already time to go back to class and the security guard grabbed the strap of my camera back and shoved me against a wall.”
That security guard was joined by another security guard and a schoolteacher who kept demanding he hand over his phone, but Franco kept refusing.
“I was pretty mad at this point,” he said. “The teacher had to calm me down.”
So they marched him to the assistant principal’s office where he encountered the first security guard, the one he had recorded body slamming his friend.
“I kept reminding him that I’m not going to give him my phone and he said something like, ‘I will see you in court,’” Franco said.
The assistant principal, a man named P. Torres, finally walked in and threatened him with suspension, which is when he agreed to delete it.
“But they wanted to see the video first,” he said.
“They kept playing it over and over. They seemed to enjoy it. They laughed at one part, but I don’t know which.”
Then they handed him the phone back, ordering him to delete it in front of them.
And then they gave him a hall pass back to class.
But Franco is not happy.
“It is public property and I feel I have the right to film stuff, especially something that could jeopardize the guy’s job.
“I was looking out for my friend and I wanted people to see the video.”
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