FLORIDA (CBS Newspath) – Police are investigating after a video showed a school principal hitting a 6-year-old student with a wooden paddle. The student’s mother recorded the incident on her cell phone last month in Clewiston, Florida.
The mother, who does not speak English, said she did not give consent for the child to be hit. Principal Melissa Carter was seen on the video hitting the student while Cecilia Self, a clerk at the school, held the girl’s hands down.
The incident happened on April 13 when the school called the woman to say her daughter had caused damage to a computer. They said the fee would be $50. The mother said before the beating she was brought into Carter’s office and noticed there were no surveillance cameras, so she secretly recorded what happened next with her phone.
The mother spoke with CBS Fort Myers affiliate WINK news but did not want to be identified. “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 said. “I had never hit her.” The mother said she felt she couldn’t intervene and stop the beating because she is undocumented.
“At no time did the mom give permission for anyone, including the principal, to paddle their child,” said Brent Probinsky, the attorney representing the mother. He said the mother didn’t interfere because “it happened very quickly” and the mom was “shocked” and “frozen for a few moments” while the paddling was underway.
Corporal punishment in schools is legal in 19 states in the U.S., including Florida. According to Probinksy, 20 of Florida’s 67 counties allow corporal punishment but it is not allowed in Hendry Country, where this incident took place. The attorney told CBS News he not only wants the principal to be arrested but he wants to make sure she never works at another school. He also said she is now on administrative leave from the school. The state’s attorney is also investigating the incident.