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Florida principal investigated for paddling 6-year-old, authorities say


A Florida principal is under investigation after a video showed she was paddling a 6-year-old in front of her mother at an elementary school, authorities said.

Principal Melissa Carter of Central Elementary School in Clewiston, Fla., Hit the girl with a paddle last month, according to video of the episode on cellphone and the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office.

In an email Monday, Robert J. Egley, the assistant superintendent of district schools for Hendry County, said “the situation is still under investigation” and did not provide further details.

The Clewiston Police Department, which is also investigating the case, said its investigation was “ongoing.”

Brent Probinsky, an attorney for the mother, said the woman received a call on April 13 from the school saying her daughter damaged a computer screen at the school in Clewiston, located about 80 miles north -west of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The woman, Mr Probinsky said, was ordered to bring $ 50 to the school office to pay for the damages, which he said she did.

In a cellphone video of the episode that WINK-TV posted on its website, the student leaned into a chair as Ms. Carter hit her three times with a paddle as they stood next to a school employee. After the first strike, video shows, the child started crying and moved away from the chair, but the two women repositioned her there, then Mrs. Carter told her “Put your hands down” and l ‘hit again twice. Subsequently, the child complained of “severe pain” in the lower back and buttocks, according to the sheriff’s office.

“I was appalled at the brutality with which this principal beat this child,” Mr. Probinksy said.

The girl’s mother told the TV station that she was horrified by the way her daughter had been beaten. “The hatred with which she hit my daughter,” the woman said in Spanish, “I mean it was a hatred that, really, I never hit my daughter like she hit her.”

In 1977, the United States Supreme Court ruled in its decision Ingraham v. Wright that corporal punishment in schools is constitutional, meaning each state can set its own rules when it comes to physically punishing students.

Corporal punishment, which is defined as paddling, spanking, or other forms of corporal punishment, is permitted in 19 states, primarily in the South. Students are typically spanked with paddles measuring up to two feet long and several inches wide.

Although Florida allows corporal punishment, Hendry County District School policy does not allow it. School district policy states that “the principal shall designate penalties for rule violations, excluding corporal punishment.” The policy encourages procedures that “do not demean students” and “tend not to violate individual rights guaranteed to students by the Constitution”.

The Clewiston Police Department said it received a report last month from staff at Hendry Regional Medical Center asking that an officer be dispatched for a complaint about an injured child and saying the mother wanted to file a police report.

The Police Department said the Department of Children and Families and the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office had received information about it.

Ms. Carter did not immediately respond to phone and email messages Monday afternoon asking for comment.

Mr Probinsky said he and his client were hopeful that criminal and administrative action would be taken in the case and that the episode would highlight the corporal punishment.

As for the 6-year-old girl, he said, she has since been transferred to another school.



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