A school principal in Florida has been cleared of wrongdoing after a viral video showed her spanking a six-year-old girl with a paddle for damaging a computer.
State Attorney Amira Fox’s office said on Friday that Melissa Carter, head of Central Elementary School in Clewiston, will not face charges over the incident.
The attorney’s office says that no crime was committed when the crying child was punished in a classroom in front of her mother on 13 April.
Prosecutors said that the punishment did not cause harm or amount to child abuse, as the mother Fabiola Rivera has consented to the punishment of her daughter, was present, and did not raise any objection in the video that she filmed.
Earlier, police cleared the principal after watching the viral video. Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden, said that from his “perspective” he “saw no crime being committed” and that it was up to the state attorney to decide whether to bring charges against the school principal.
Ms Carter was placed on administrative leave while the Clewiston Police Department investigated the allegations of abuse.
The police department said that it was “working diligently to ensure that the rights of all parties in this matter are preserved.”
It also said it “takes all matters of child welfare seriously and remains committed to protecting the most vulnerable members of our community.”
Corporal punishment is still legal in several Florida counties but it is banned in Hendry in the southern part of the state.
Sheriff Whidden was sworn in earlier this year, for his fourth term, as the Hendry County Sheriff. His remarks that there was “no crime” have invited widespread criticism.
A police report was filed on 13 April against Ms Carter and a school clerk who had also informed the child’s mother on the phone.
The school had told the mother it would cost approximately $50 (£36) to fix the damage caused to a computer.
According to the police report, the school clerk had told the mother that the school has a small paddle that they could use to smack the child with, and for that, the mother and a deputy sheriff would have to be present to supervise.
The mother of the six-year-old was not aware of her rights, her attorney Brent Probinsky told the media. She is an undocumented immigrant in fear of being deported.
He said: “She was confused as to her rights, what she should do… the mother didn’t know if they had a right to paddle her.”
The mother then hit the record button on her phone and hid it in her purse, capturing her daughter being paddled by the school principal, Ms Carter.
WINK News quoted the mother — whose first language is Spanish — saying: “My daughter was already in the office. The principal started to scream.”
She said there was no deputy present. She then began recording the spanking on her phone.
“Nobody would have believed me. I sacrificed my daughter, so all parents can realise what’s happening in this school.”
Mr Probinsky said: “In my view, this is a crime. This is an aggravated battery. What happened is barbaric, outrageous. Corporal punishment has to end.”
He has also asked the state attorney to file criminal charges against the principal.
Meanwhile, the Hendry School District in which the Central Elementary School falls held a board meeting on Tuesday, NBC-2 News reported.
Members of the community are said to have shown “overwhelming support” for the school’s principal.
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