Florida Principal Under Investigation After Paddling Student

Melissa Carter Principal at Central Elementary School, Clewiston, Hendry County, Florida Photo Source: Melissa Carter Principal at Central Elementary School in Hendry County, Florida. (Twitter via NBC2)

Authorities are investigating a Florida elementary school principal after she was caught on camera paddling a six-year-old female student. The video was taken by the student's mother who was in the room while the principal paddled the child.
 
The incident took place on April 13 when the young girl's mother came into Central Elementary School in Clewiston, Florida, to pay a $50 fee for a computer that was damaged by the girl. When the mother arrived at the school, she was ushered into a room with the principal, Melissa Carter, 37, and the school clerk Cecilia Self, 62. Self was in the room to serve as the Spanish to English interpreter.
 
Once the mother was in the room, Carter began to scold the young girl and then instructed the young girl to bend over so that she could receive a paddling. The mother spoke with CBS affiliate WINK-TV where she explained that she felt the unease and began to secretly record the incident on her cell phone. “Nobody would have believed me,” she shares with WINK-TV. “I sacrificed my daughter, so all parents can realize what’s happening in this school.”
 
The mother revealed that she was afraid to speak up while the paddling was taking place as she feared retaliation because she was from Mexico. The mother explained, “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 mother, who has not been publicly identified, told the station.
 
The day after the incident took place, the Clewiston Police Department was alerted by officials from Hendry Regional Medical Center and asked to respond to a complaint of a child with injuries. The police department publicly responded to the incident explaining, “The Clewiston Police Department, Department of Children and Families, and the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office have been provided information regarding this matter,” the release said. “The investigation remains ongoing at this time.”
 
The case was later handed over to the State Attorney’s Office for the 20th Judicial Circuit. Both Carter and Self could face criminal charges because of their interaction with the student.

Corporal Punishment in American Schools

This incident which has now gained national attention has reignited the spotlight on corporal punishment in America’s schools. Florida is one of 19 states that allow corporal punishment in school. According to Florida’s statute, corporal punishment is allowed if the school’s principal approves it. However, “approval is not necessary for each specific instance in which it is used," the statute explains. "The principal shall prepare guidelines for administering such punishment which identify the types of punishable offenses, the conditions under which the punishment shall be administered, and the specific personnel on the school staff authorized to administer the punishment.”
 
The county where the incident took place, Hendry County, does not allow corporal punishment, however. Though both Carter and Self are under investigation, it's not clear if either will face charges.

Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti
Nadia El-Yaouti is a postgraduate at James Madison University where she studied English and Education. She lives in Central Virginia with her husband and two little girls. Although she considers herself a workaholic, when she’s not juggling work, you can be sure to find her traveling the world with her little family.