Florida sheriff says principal who paddled first-grader did not commit a crime


**WARNING: Video may be disturbing to some viewers**

CLEWISTON, Fla. (WFLA/NewsNation) – A Florida sheriff says a Florida principal should not face any crimes after a viral video showed her using a paddle on a 6-year-old girl in front of her mother.

Brent Probinsky, the mother’s lawyer, said she got a call from the school last month, saying her first-grade daughter caused $50 worth of damage to a computer.

The mother was told to bring the money to the school to pay for the damage. When she got there, she was taken to the principal’s office, where she found her daughter, Principal Melissa Carter and another woman.

Then the principal took out a paddle.

The girl’s mother started recording on her cellphone. Carter is seen using a paddle to strike the girl three times. She starts crying after the first.

The little girl can be heard saying, “no, no.”

After that the girl sits down, crying, while Carter continues to yell.

“You better tell your momma you’re sorry. And you better not treat her like that either,” said Carter. “Because I’m going to tell you what, if your mom wants to come up to the school and spank you, and we can watch, that’s gonna happen.”

The child then tearfully says, “yes Ma’am,” when asked if she understands Carter.

The mother’s attorney said the principal invited the woman to bring in any other kids at home for a paddling if they’re disrespectful to her.

Florida is one of 19 states where corporal, or physical punishment, is legal in public schools from preschool through high school, but it is not allowed at the Hendry County School District, where this incident happened.

WBBH spoke with Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden who says he has no issue with what the principal did.

“This is up to the State Attorney but from my perspective, I saw no crime being committed,” Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden told WBBH.

Probinsky disagrees with the sheriff. 

“In my view, this is a crime. This is an aggravated battery….What happened is barbaric, outrageous, corporal punishment has to end,” Probinsky said. 

The school district policy states “the superintendent shall designate sanctions or the infraction of rules, excluding corporal punishment.”

“She’s seeking justice. What happened to her little girl is terrible. They inflicted severe corporal punishment on this first-grader, six-year-old, first year of school, who scratched a computer,” said Probinsky.

WBBH says Carter has been placed on administrative leave. The Department of Children and Families as well as the Clewiston Police Department are investigating the incident.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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