Florida School Principal Who Paddled 6-Year-Old Did Not Commit Crime, Police Say
Police in Florida have determined that a headteacher who hit a six-year-old child with a paddle did not commit a crime.
Melissa Carter, who works at Central Elementary School in Clewiston, Florida, was caught on camera by the child’s mother as she punished her for damaging a computer.
The incident took place after a school clerk named Cecilia Self called the child’s mother to say the school has a small paddle they could use to smack the child with, but that the mother and a deputy sheriff would have to be present to supervise.
See footage of the incident below. Warning: Distressing Content:
Corporal punishment is still legal in several Florida counties, however it is banned in Hendry, where the incident took place. A police report was filed against Carter and the clerk on April 13, but after reviewing the footage Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden said he ‘saw no crime being committed’ from his ‘perspective’.
The sheriff stated that it was up to the state attorney to decide whether to bring charges against the school principal, but a memo from the State Attorney’s Office, cited by Wink News, states, ‘It is clear using a paddle to spank a child is not likely to cause death or great bodily harm.’
The mother is said to have gone to the school to witness the discipline, but was ‘confused’ by a language barrier and ‘did not understand the process correctly’.
The mother’s attorney, Brent Probinsky, explained she is an undocumented immigrant in fear of being deported and said, ‘She was confused as to her rights, what she should do… the mother didn’t know if they had a right to paddle her.’
Despite the mother’s confusion, the state attorney said ‘a parent has a right to use corporal punishment to discipline their children, and similarly has the right to consent that others do so on their behalf’.
Carter was placed on administrative leave while the Clewiston Police Department investigated the incident, saying it is ‘working diligently to ensure that the rights of all parties in this matter are preserved’.
In a statement cited by The Independent, the police department added that it ‘takes all matters of child welfare seriously and remains committed to protecting the most vulnerable members of our community’.
Due to her uncertainty around the situation, the mother decided to record the scene while hiding the phone with her purse.
Her lawyer said, ‘In my view, this is a crime. This is an aggravated battery. What happened is barbaric, outrageous. Corporal punishment has to end.’
Criminal Defense Attorney Robert Foley has said that since Hendry County District Schools don’t allow punishments of the type seen in the video, the two staff members could still face disciplinary action from the district.
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