Note: we are republishing this story to raise awareness about violence in schools in which teachers are usually the perpetrators. This resource goes into the data more in depth and discusses 5 strategies to reduce teacher-perpetrated violence: https://www.cgdev.org/blog/violence-schools-pervasive-and-teachers-are-often-perpetrators-here-are-five-ways-prevent-it
Clewiston Police Department is investigating a school principal who was caught on camera paddling a six-year-old student for allegedly damaging a school computer, according to a report by Hendry County Sheriff’s Office.
According to WINK News, the department is investigating Central Elementary School Principal Melissa Carter for paddling the student in front of her mother.
The Department of Children and Families has also launched its own investigation into the incident.
While some school districts allow corporal punishment, Hendry County School District does not.
The student’s mother caught the incident on her cellphone camera.
The parent and child have not been identified to protect their identities.
According to Brent Probinsky, the family’s lawyer, Clewiston police have turned over the case files to the State Attorney’s Office for the 20th Judicial Circuit, and the state attorney’s office is deciding whether to bring criminal charges against Carter and Cecilia Self, a clerk at the school who was also present during the incident.
Attempts to contact Carter and Self have been unsuccessful.
Speaking to WINK News, the mother said in Spanish: “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.”
“I had never hit her,” she added, crying.
The incident occurred when the mother was called by the school and told that her 6-year-old daughter had damaged a computer, and that she would need to pay a $50 fee.
The police report stated that paddling had been mentioned to the mother, and that a deputy would be present, but she maintained that she didn’t understand the process because of the language barrier.
She arrived at the school to pay the fee, but was taken to the principal’s office where she found her daughter, Carter and Self. There was no deputy present.
“My daughter was already in the office,” she said. “The principal started to scream.”
The mother got nervous.
She said: “There are no cameras. What are we doing in this place? My daughter and I, alone.”
So she made the only decision she thought would be appropriate in that situation – she hid her phone in her purse and began recording the incident.
She said: “Nobody would have believed me. I sacrificed my daughter, so all parents can realize what’s happening in this school.”
Hendry County School District policy bars corporal punishment, and reads: “The superintendent shall designate sanctions for the infractions of rules, excluding corporal punishment.”
The policy encourages punishments that “do not demean students” and “do not tend to violate any individual rights constitutionally guaranteed to students.”
Probinsky, who works with undocumented immigrants, said: “That’s aggravated battery. They’re using a weapon that can cause severe physical harm.”
“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,” he added.
The mother took the child to the doctor the same day, who documented the red marks and bruises caused by the paddle.
She is worried about her child experiencing long-lasting psychological damage.
“I’m going to get justice for my daughter because if I could not do it in front of her, I’m going to do it with justice,” she said.
Hendry County School District responded “no comment” to various requests for a statement.