District Attorney Press Release

Criminal Charges Not Filed Against Two Local School Officials Russ Griffith or Christopher Ferree

Author: District Attorney's Office
Date: 4/18/2018 4:33:04 PM

After review of two cases involving allegations of battery, one involving former Dean of Students of Mission Prep High School Russ Griffith and another involving Atascadero High School teacher Christopher Ferree, the District Attorney’s office has determined there is insufficient evidence to file criminal charges.

The investigation of Mr. Griffith was initiated by the City of San Luis Obispo Police Department in November of 2017, and involved Mr. Griffith’s conduct while correcting a student for using profanity in a school lunchroom.  The concern was the manner and degree of force Mr. Griffith used in reprimanding the student. 

The investigation of Mr. Ferree was initiated by the Atascadero Police Department in November of 2017, and involved Mr. Ferree’s actions while addressing a student who was disrupting class activities.  The general concern was that Mr. Ferree’s physical response to the student’s conduct was excessive. 

As both incidents involved alleged misconduct by a school official while addressing perceived student misbehavior, they were reviewed concurrently.  Post-referral investigation included interviewing students and faculty, reviewing pertinent documents and conducting legal research.  The crime of battery requires the unlawful use of force or violence on the person of another.  This has been interpreted by the courts as prohibiting the unlawful “harmful or offensive” use of force on another.  In both matters, witnesses provided conflicting accounts of the nature and extent of the force used and the student conduct that initiated the contact.  Additionally, the California Education Code provides a defense to the crime of battery in instances were a school official uses physical control over a student in an amount “reasonably necessary to maintain order…or to maintain proper and appropriate conditions conducive to learning.”  Given the state of the evidence and applicable law it was concluded the charge of battery in each instance could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt and the filing of criminal charges has been declined.