States Attorney's Office review finds no violation of law in Clewiston principal paddling student

Posted at 11:02 PM, May 07, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-08 12:47:02-04

CLEWISTON, Fla. — On May 7, the States Attorney's Office released its review of a Central Elementary School principal paddling a first-grade student, saying she did not break any laws.

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The findings state, "Upon review of the totality of the evidence and the law, it does not appear that any crime was committed by Ms. Carter in this case."

On April 13, Principal Melissa Carter and staff member Cecilia Self, called the girl's mother to let her know the child intentionally damaged a computer screen and she would have to pay for repairs.

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The mother stated that the child breaks things at home and that she is afraid to spank her because the girl threatens to call DCF and police.

According to the release, Ms. Self says the mother requested the school spank the child for her. The mother was told she would have to come to the school and request the punishment and be present while it occurred.

The mother agreed and admittedly proceeded to record the incident without anyone knowing, according to the States Attorney's report.

The Principal and Ms. Self explain the punishment to the child and what to expect before striking her three times on the behind with a wooden paddle. The girl was told to apologize to her mother and the reason for the spanking was again explained to the girl.

"Both staff members appear to treat the child and her mother with respect throughout the process," the report states.

At no point in the video does the parent object, and she thanks the women as she leaves.

The mother reported the spanking to the Hendry County Sheriff's Office the next day.

Photos provided during the investigation show mild bruising consistent with the paddling. The mother told deputies that because of a language barrier she was confused and, "did not understand the process correctly," reports say.

Attempts were made to get a more detailed statement from her but she did not return phone calls. Her attorney, Brent Probinsky, responded saying she would give a statement to law enforcement, but later rescinded after questioning if she could possibly face criminal charges.

According to the States Attorney's Office, several attempts were also made by their agency to speak with the mother. Their report points out that despite giving a statement to law enforcement, she gave several to media saying she, "'sacrificed' her daughter because no one would believe her about what was happening at the school unless she video recorded it," the report says.

This statement also contradicts her earlier account to deputies that she was confused and did not consent.

According to the report, even if the parent misunderstood the incident, there is no reason to believe Ms. Carter was aware of a lack of consent given the circumstances, "In fact, all evidence points to the contrary," it states.

The States Attorney finds no evidence of misdemeanor battery given that the mother seemingly sanctioned the school to carry out the spanking as a form of discipline on her behalf as the parent.

The report also finds no evidence of aggravated battery as alleged by the mother's attorney since it would require evidence of intent to inflict great bodily harm, such as dismemberment or disfigurement, or the use of a deadly weapon.

Florida law does not recognize spanking as a form of child abuse.