The principal of a Florida school could be facing criminal charges after she was filmed spanking a crying six-year-old girl with a paddle, while her confused mother watched.
Melissa Carter, head of Central Elementary School in Clewiston, is under investigation by the police, WINK News reported.
The unnamed mother said she was called to her daughter’s school after the officials complained she had caused damage to a school computer.
The mother, who does not speak fluent English, said she did not understand what was happening as she was arrived at the school on April 13 to pay a $50 fine.
She claims she was taken to the principal’s office where her daughter was waiting.
Carter then brought out a wooden paddle and smacked the girl on the behind.
Florida is one of 19 states that still allows corporal punishment in schools, but the practice is banned in Hendry County school district.
Melissa Carter, left, is seen spanking the six-year-old child with a wooden paddle on April 13
The little girl can be heard whimpering and crying as she is beaten with the paddle at school
Central Elementary School in Clewiston, Florida, is yet to respond to the video
The mother said she did not know what to do, and worried that if she intervened in the punishment she too would be in trouble, with her immigration status questioned.
She filmed the incident, not knowing what else she should do.
The tearful mother told WINK News: ‘Nobody would have believed me.
‘I sacrificed my daughter, so all parents can realize what’s happening in this school.’
She says she had spoken on the phone with someone from the school who had mentioned paddling the girl, with a deputy present. But she says that due to a language breakdown she did not understand what that meant.
She says when she arrived at the school she was ushered into the principal’s office, and no deputy was present for the punishment.
She said: ‘My daughter was already in the office. The principal started to scream.
‘There were no cameras. What are we doing in this place? My daughter and I, alone.’
She added: ‘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.
‘I had never hit her.’
The mom later took her daughter to a doctor, and documented red marks and bruises made by the paddle.
She says she is now worried about what psychological harm has been caused to her child.
Melissa Carter, the principal of Central Elementary School, could face criminal charges
Cecilia Self, right, was asked to translate but the mother claims she did not do so
Bret Provinsky, the attorney for the mother, said the State Attorney’s Office is reviewing the case to see whether they pursue criminal charges against Carter and Cecilia Self, the clerk of the school, who was seen in the room in the video.
Self, the clerk, was designated to translate for the mother, but the mother said she failed to do so.
Provinsky told WINK News: ‘That’s aggravated battery. They’re using a weapon that can cause severe physical harm.
‘The child is terrified, she feels vulnerable. There’s nothing she can do in the hands of these adults, who treated her so brutally, savagely, sadistically.’
On the website for the school district, it states: ‘The superintendent shall designate sanctions for the infractions of rules, excluding corporal punishment.’
Neither Carter nor the school has responded to requests for comment.
‘I don’t mind discipline with permission – but not when there’s a language barrier,’ said Ruby Monroe, whose grandson attends the school.
She told WINK News: ‘I worked for the state of Florida for 34 years and we always had an interpreter.’
Corporal punishment is legal in 19 US states: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wyoming.
But certain school districts in those states have banned the punishment.
In 2011, New Mexico became the most recent state to outlaw the practice.