A Central Florida elementary school principal is under criminal investigation after paddling a 6-year-old girl in front of the girl’s mother, according to reporting from a local CBS affiliate WINK. The mother secretly filmed the encounter after noticing there were no surveillance cameras in the room and feared no one would believe her.
On April 13, the little girl’s mother received a call from the school, Central Elementary School in Clewiston, alerting her to damage her daughter caused to a school computer resulting in a $50 fee. When the child’s mother arrived at the school to pay the fine, she was escorted to the principal’s office where her daughter was already waiting.
“The principal started to scream,” the mother told WINK.
The mother, who has said she is an undocumented immigrant, said she was confused about what was happening due to a language barrier. As she watched, a school clerk identified as Cecelia Self held the child against the table while the principal, Melissa Carter brandished a paddle and began striking the little girl’s bottom.
A 6yo child in FL. was beaten by her school principal, in front of her mother, for damage she allegedly caused to a computer. ⚠️ this video is graphic. It’s infuriating, outrageous & shocking & the principal is now under criminal investigation. https://t.co/M3cIZeTMKa pic.twitter.com/HPAcbYXlXe
— David Begnaud (@DavidBegnaud) May 2, 2021
“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,” the girl’s mother told WINK News in Spanish. “I had never hit her.”
As the situation intensified, the mother began to worry about what would happen later. “Nobody would have believed me,” the mother said. “I sacrificed my daughter, so all parents can realize what’s happening in this school.”
The lawyer for the family, Brent Probinsky, told CBS News that the mother was afraid to intervene because she is undocumented and was intimidated.
Even though it goes against recommendations from the American Pediatric Association and is outlawed in many states across the country, corporal punishment like paddling is allowed in many Florida counties. It is not legal in Hendry County where the beating took place.
Carter and Self are now under investigation by the Clewiston Police Department and the Department of Child and Family Services, according to WINK. The Florida State Attorneys Office is considering filing criminal charges.
Studies shown that corporal punishment does more harm than good when it comes to child discipline. One recent study examined over 1000 pairs of twins, both fraternal and identical, and determined that the twin who was treated more harshly by parents or caregivers showed an increased tendency toward antisocial or delinquent behavior.
Other studies have shown that in states where corporal punishment is legal, Black and brown children experience more abuse at the hands of educators and school administrators than white children within the same districts.