Police in Florida have cleared an elementary school principal who was caught on camera hitting a six-year-old child with a paddle.
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.
In April, the principal of Central Elementary School in Clewiston, Florida, Melissa Carter was filmed by the mother of the six-year-old girl whacking her for damaging a computer.
The Clewiston Police Department is investigating the allegations and Ms Carter meanwhile has been placed on administrative leave.
The police department said it is “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.”
In several Florida counties corporal punishment is still legal, however it is banned in Hendy.
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 the 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.”
The local sheriff, Steve Whidden — who said that he did not see any crime being committed — has been criticised for his decision.
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. It said the members of the community showed “overwhelming support” for the school’s principal.
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