A Florida school principal has been cleared of wrongdoing after a viral video showed her spanking a six-year-old girl with a paddle in front of her mom as punishment for damaging a computer.
State Attorney Amira Fox’s office said Friday that Melissa Carter, head of Central Elementary School in Clewiston, will not face charges over the incident and that no crime was committed.
Prosecutors said the punishment did not cause harm or amount to child abuse and that its investigation found the child’s mom, Fabiola Rivera, had consented to her daughter being spanked by the school staffer.
Carter was under investigation by police after she was filmed spanking the crying girl with a paddle in a classroom on April 13.
Florida school principal Melissa Carter, left, is seen spanking the six-year-old child with a wooden paddle on April 13. Carter has been cleared of wrongdoing
State Attorney Amira Fox’s office said Friday that Melissa Carter (pictured), head of Central Elementary School in Clewiston, will not face charges over the incident
The six year-old’s mother, who has not been named, 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, claims she was confused by the allegations made against her daughter as she arrived at the school 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 as she wailed.
The mom secretly filmed the incident but did not intervene, later claiming she was confused due to the language barrier.
She filed a police report and her attorney Brent Probinsky accused Carter of committing child abuse and aggravated battery.
But prosecutors said Friday their probe found no crime had been committed.
According to statements by Carter and another staff member Cecilia Self, the first-grader’s mom was called by the school telling her about her child damaging the computer and that she would have to pay a fine.
The mom told Self her daughter was breaking things at home as well but that she was scared to spank her daughter at home because the girl had threatened to call authorities, according to the memo.
The mother is an undocumented immigrant and was fearful of reprimand.
The school staff told investigators that the mom asked if the school could spank the child for her, according to the memo.
Rivera was reportedly told she would have to come to the school to request such discipline, and must be ‘present during the spanking if she wished for school staff to do it for her,’ the memo reads.
‘According to both Ms. Carter and Ms. Self, Ms. Rivera then arrived at the school and made that request.’
Prosecutors said it appears that Rivera filmed the incident without the knowledge of anyone else in the room.
In the video, Carter is seen explaining to the child what was about to happen and why.
The little girl can be heard whimpering and crying as she is beaten with the paddle at school
Carter was under investigation by police after she was filmed spanking the crying girl with a paddle in a classroom on April 13. Carter left and another staff member Cecilia Self right
Self and Carter then appear to position the girl in a way she can be safely spanked without causing her injury, prosecutors said.
The girl was then spanked three times then told to apologize to her mother and that the same punishment would happen again if she continued to misbehave.
Both staff members appear to ‘treat the child and her mother with respect throughout the process’ with Self translating to Spanish for the benefit of the mom on several occasions, the State Attorney’s Office said.
At no point did the mom object to what was going on and when she left with her daughter she said ‘thank you’ to the two staff members, prosecutors said.
Prosecutors said the two staff members’ versions of events also matched their interview with the child.
Deputy Chief Assistant State Attorney Abraham Thornburg concluded that ‘the evidence in this case appears clear that the child’s mother sanctioned and consented to the spanking of her daughter as discipline for misbehavior.
‘A parent has a right to use corporal punishment to discipline their children and similarly has the right to consent that others do so on their behalf.’
‘Based upon the evidence reviewed, the actions of Ms. Carter in this case do not meet the elements of any criminal offense in the State of Florida,’ the State Attorney’s Office added.
The office also said that edited clips of the video had been released to local media which had led to an ‘incomplete and misleading account of the incident.’
The DA’s decision came after county investigators reached a similar conclusion.
The mother had told investigators she had been ‘confused’ because of the language barrier and didn’t know what was going on.
Central Elementary School in Clewiston, Florida above. Prosecutors said the punishment did not cause harm or amount to child abuse and that its investigation found the child’s mom, Fabiola Rivera, had consented to her daughter being spanked by the school staffer
Carter did not commit a crime prosecutors said Friday. Florida is one of 19 states that still allows corporal punishment in schools, but the practice is banned in Hendry County school district – which includes Central Elementary School
She claimed she feared getting in trouble, or having her immigration status questioned if she tried to stand up for her daughter.
She later took her daughter to a doctor, and documented red marks and bruises made by the paddle.
She later told local media she had offered the youngster as a ‘sacrifice’ and filmed the spanking to show what was happening at the school.
She said she was now worried about what psychological harm has been caused to her child.
Florida is one of 19 states that still allows corporal punishment in schools, but the practice is banned in Hendry County school district – which includes Central Elementary School.
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.