A Florida elementary school principal could face criminal charges after she was caught on camera whacking a six-year-old girl with a paddle, while her mother helplessly stood and watched. The shocking video was captured by the student's mother, according to reports. The girl was being punished for allegedly damaging a computer unknowingly.
Melissa Carter, head of Central Elementary School in Clewiston, was filmed bending the child over and hitting her several times with a wooden paddle, WINK-TV reported. She is currently under investigation and could face charges if found guilty, as corporal punishment is not permitted in Hendry County school district. The video of the incident has since gone viral.
The mother, who wasn't named in the report, said that she was called by the school on April 13 because her daughter had apparently caused about $50-worth of damage to a computer. The mother, who can't speak fluent English, arrived to the school with the $50 fine, although she was yet to understand what had actually happened.
She was then taken to the principal's office, where her daughter was already waiting. Carter was also present there along with another school clerk and all of a sudden, Carter started scream, the mom said. She immediately got nervous as she couldn't find any surveillance camera. "There were no cameras. What are we doing in this place? My daughter and I, alone," the mom said she wondered.
And then Carter took the paddle and started hitting the child. "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 mom told the TV-station in Spanish. "I had never hit her."
She said she did not know what to do to save her daughter. Moreover, she worried that if she intervened she too would end up in trouble, with her immigration status questioned. So to keep a proof, she started filming the incident. "Nobody would have believed me. I sacrificed my daughter, so all parents can realize what's happening in this school," the mother said.
The mother said that she hid her phone in her purse and decided to record the brutal punishment — fearing that authorities wouldn't believe her otherwise. But she was worried all the time that she would get caught which could have invited more trouble for her and her daughter.
Later, she took her daughter to a doctor to document the red marks and bruises caused by the paddle, the report said. "I'm going to get justice for my daughter because if I could not do it in front of her, I'm going to do it with justice," the woman said.
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. Police have also started an investigation into the incident. Self, the clerk, was designated to translate for the mother, but instead she also watched Carter brutally hitting the child and didn't come to her help.
"That's aggravated battery," said Provinsky, who works with undocumented immigrants. "They're using a weapon that can cause severe physical, harm." The child presently is traumatized and is yet to come out of the tragic experience.
The Hendry County School District policy does not allow corporal punishment, the report said. If found guilty, Carter and Self could even face criminal charges.