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Posted under: News

Florida Principal On Administrative Leave After Mom Records Her Paddling 6-Year-Old Daughter

The elementary school principal said the student damaged a school computer.

An elementary school principal in Florida is being investigated by authorities for paddling a 6-year-old student after a video from the child’s mother’s circulated online.  

Melissa Carter, head of Central Elementary School in Hendry County, bent the child over and proceeded to hit the girl with a paddle in front of her mom, WINK News reported. According to the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office report, Carter cited it as punishment over a damaged computer. 

The investigation is currently overseen by the State Attorney’s Office for the 20th Judicial Circuit after being turned over by the Clewiston, Florida police.   

Brent Probinsky, the family’s lawyer who works with undocumented immigrants, said the principal had resorted to “aggravated battery” and should be charged with a crime for “child abuse.”  

“They’re using a weapon that can cause severe, physical harm,” Probinsky told CBS News. “The child is terrified, she feels vulnerable. There’s nothing she can do in the hands of these adults, who treated her so brutally, savagely, sadistically.” 

“I’m going to get justice for my daughter,” the girl’s mother, whose name is not being disclosed for her safety, said of the incident. “Because if I could not do it in front of her, I’m going to do it with justice.” 

On April 13, the mother said she was called to the school after administrators said her daughter had damaged a computer. She was told there’d be a $50 fee. Due to language barriers, the mother told authorities she didn’t fully understand the issue but showed up to the school anyway to pay, according to WINK News.   

While at the school, the child’s mother silently recorded administrators beating her child when she noticed there were no surveillance cameras in the principal’s office. In a video provided by WINK News, she said this was her only way to prove the incident actually happened. 

In the video, the school’s clerk, Cecilia Self, is holding down the girl’s hands and Carter can be heard berating the 6-year-old. The principal said she would watch if the mother gave the girl a spanking, The Hill reported

"If your mom wants to come up to the school and spank you, and we can watch, that’s going to happen," Carter, who is on administrative leave, said.

The mother said being an undocumented immigrant stopped her from intervening and claimed she never used to hit her daughter.   

“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 can be heard saying in tears. 

The child had physical bruising from the paddle and is suffering from psychological and emotional damage, according to her mother. 

In some schools, corporal punishment is legal. However, in Hendry County where the incident happened, it is not, The Hill reported. Corporal punishment has also been criticized by former U.S. Education Secretary John B. King Jr., who called for its ban in 2016. Zoe Savitsky, former Southern Poverty Law Center’s deputy legal director, made comments regarding a 2019 study on the act, saying it had no place in schools, according to HuffPost.  

“It destroys a child’s trust in educators, which damages learning relationships," she said.   

According to WINK News, the Department of Children and Families is also investigating the incident. 

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Danyella Wilder is a freelance writer and reporter currently based in Southern CA. She is a recent graduate of the Medill School of Journalism M.S. program at Northwestern University where she focused on magazine and feature writing. Danyella has a passion for writing about culture and uses her free time to engage in sustainable living practices.