September 17, 2021 18:43

Prosecutors won’t charge principal after controversial paddling incident

UPDATE 5/8/2021:

According to Fox News, the principal swinging the paddle, will not face charges. The State Attorney’s office put out a statement saying, “Upon review of the totality of the evidence and the law, it does not appear that any crime was committed by Ms. Carter in this case.”

The State Attorney’s Office says the video clips provide an incomplete or fully accurate picture of the entire exchange or actions that lead up to the paddling.

The mother could still try to pursue a civil case against the principal.

ORIGINAL 5/5/2021:

ArLuther Lee

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A Florida elementary school principal is facing criminal battery charges after a mother secretly recorded the woman using a wooden paddle to spank her 6-year-old daughter as punishment for damaging a computer.

Authorities were called to investigate the April 13 incident at Central Elementary School in Clewiston after 37-year-old Melissa Carter paddled the student in an administrative office while Cecilia Self, a 62-year-old school clerk and interpreter, assisted.

Reports say the principal has since been placed on administrative leave while the Florida Department of Education investigates the matter, and the child has been transferred to another school.

Schools in Hendry County do not allow corporal punishment, although the state of Florida has no law on the books outlawing the practice.

The incident began when the school called the girl’s mother and informed her of a $50 cost to repair a computer her daughter had damaged, according to WINK-TV, the CBS affiliate in Fort Myers.

She arrived the same day to pay, and the girl was already in Carter’s office with Self, but no deputy was present after the mother was told there would be, the station reported.

The child’s mother, who has not been publicly identified and speaks only Spanish, said she began recording the incident because she felt insecure after noticing there were no other cameras in the room to document the discipline procedure.

“Nobody would have believed me,” she told WINK-TV, revealing that she concealed her phone in her purse. “I sacrificed my daughter, so all parents can realize what’s happening in this school.”

Brent Probinsky, the family’s attorney, said the mother was reluctant to step in and stop the beating because she feared her immigration status would lead to her family being deported if she reported what happened.

“The hatred with which she hit my daughter, I mean it was a hatred that, really, I’ve never hit my daughter like she hit her.” — Mother of 6-year-old girl who was paddled by principal

Video shows the whimpering child being made to bend over a chair as Carter delivers three strikes with the paddle.

After the first strike, the child, who was wearing jeans, immediately jolts upward and turns around while wailing and pleading with Carter, who instructs the girl to put her hands down and prepare for more, the video shows. The child complies and two more strikes are delivered to her back side, although less forceful than the first, as the child sobs “no! no!”

After the third whap, Carter yells, “Now don’t do it again … and sit down!”

The child’s mother said she was distraught.

“The hatred with which she hit my daughter, I mean it was a hatred that, really, I’ve never hit my daughter like she hit her,” she told WINK-TV.

After the spanking, Carter leans over the girl and commands her to sit down in the chair and then begins to berate the 6-year-old about what she did wrong and warns her not to misbehave again, according to the video.

Carter told the child that she would get spanked all the time if she was her daughter, according to audio obtained by TMZ.

“I wish you would try to call the police on me,” Carter tells the child, according to the audio. “That’s called being a brat.”

Self is also shown on the video scolding the sobbing girl and threatening another paddling if she ever returns to the principal’s office.

The next day, the girl was taken to the Hendry Regional Medical Center, where the Clewiston Police Department was dispatched following a child abuse complaint by the mother who wanted to report the incident.

” The Clewiston Police Department, Department of Children and Families, and the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office have been provided information regarding this matter,” the department later confirmed in a news release.

Probinsky said the police department has turned its investigation over to the State Attorney’s Office for the 20th Judicial Circuit, which could file criminal charges against Carter and Self, The Washington Post reported.

“This principal on April 13 committed an aggravated battery of a 6-year-old child,” Probinsky said. “If the state attorney does their job, what they are obligated to do, we’d like them to charge the principal and her assistant with a felony.”

Probinsky added the child has been sleepless and teary since the incident and that she is receiving regular counseling.

“This principal is dangerous to children under her authority,” Probinsky said. “Everyone has to be concerned with children in public school under people who are cruel.”


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