State Watch

Florida state attorney says principal who paddled child did not commit crime

A Florida school principal will not be charged after spanking a 6-year-old girl with a wooden paddle while the girl’s mother was present, a state attorney said Friday.

A memo sent by the Florida state attorney’s office informed the Clewiston Police Department on Friday that principal Melissa Carter will not be charged over the incident, which was caught on video secretly filmed by the girl’s mother.

According to the memo from the state attorney’s office, the girl’s mother was told to come to Central Elementary School in Clewiston, Fla., last month to pay $50 in order to cover damages her daughter had intentionally caused to a school computer.

The principal and another school official both said in statements to the state attorney’s office that the girl’s mother told them over the phone that she was afraid to discipline her child for fear of statements the child had made threatening to call the police or other authorities in response. The girl’s mother allegedly requested the spanking of her daughter over the phone, the two school officials said, and was told that she would have to be present at the school and specifically request the punishment, which she did.

The decision comes after the child’s mother told news outlets, including local news affiliate WINK, that she had allowed the spanking to occur to document what was happening at the school, a statement the state attorney’s office said was inconsistent with other explanations she gave to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office after the incident occurred.

“I sacrificed my daughter, so all parents can realize what’s happening in this school,” she told WINK.

“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 added.

Those statements, investigators said, were “wholly inconsistent” with an earlier claim that she did not understand why she was being summoned to the school. The state attorney’s office added that no “great bodily harm” was done to the girl during the incident and that a paddle was not considered a deadly weapon, meaning that no aggravated battery had been committed as alleged by the mother’s attorney.

Brent Probinsky, an attorney representing the child’s mother, denounced the decision in a statement to WINK.

“The family and I as their lawyer are very disappointed that the State Attorney, Amira Fox, did not criminally charge the school principal and her assistant who savagely beat this innocent 6-year-old with a paddle for merely scratching a computer,” Probinksy said. “The State Attorney, Ms. Fox, in our estimation failed to hold accountable those who violate their responsibility to educate and nurture school children under their care, and instead, physically and emotionally abuse them.” 

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