The school's assistant principal told investigators 53-year-old Andrew McCool was teaching class when he heard two sophomores talking in the back of the classroom.
Witnesses said the teacher asked the two to complete an assignment to keep them from being disruptive.
"The teacher told him like four times be quiet," said student Iridian Sanchez, who witnessed the incident. "And the kids were laughing at him, making jokes at him."
When the students refused to calm down, McCool yelled and swore at them, said Seattle Police Det. Renee Witt. One of the students yelled back, Witt said, and the teacher grabbed the 17-year-old student by the throat and slapped him.
"He get all red, like he was so mad," Sanchez said. "He didn't grab him too hard from the neck."
The attacked student told police he was unable to breathe for a very brief period when the teacher grabbed him by the throat. When officers arrived approximately an hour after the alleged attack, the student still had red marks on his neck, Witt said.
Several students who witnessed the incident said the teacher was pushed too far.
"He's a good teacher. He plays around with students. But I'm pretty sure he wasn't serious about trying to choke the kid," said student Kenya Spears.
The teen was taken to an area hospital where he was treated and released.
McCool was questioned by officers, and released. He has been placed on administrative leave, said school principal Barbara Moore in a letter sent home to parents. McCool has also been instructed to stay away from the high school and avoid contact with staff, students and their parents for the duration of the investigation.
"He's a good teacher. He shouldn't be fired or anything, or go to jail," Spears said.