Principal Caught on Video Beating a 6-Year-Old With a Paddle

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Screenshot from viral video of principal punishing student at Central Elementary School in the Hendry County School District in Florida.

A Florida school principal caught on video beating a first-grader with a paddle and verbally abusing her, as a staff member held the girl down, won’t be punished—and the state attorney even said the child and her mom had been treated with “respect.” 

State Attorney Amira Fox said 37-year-old Melissa Carter, principal of Central Elementary School in the Hendry County School District, would not be charged with any form of assault or child abuse after beating the 6-year-old for scratching a computer. In fact, Fox said, “both staff members appear to treat the child and her mother with respect throughout the process,” in a statement. The mother, Fabiola Rivera, was called to the school and agreed to some sort of punishment but was unsure what it would be, according to the family’s lawyer, Brent Probinsky. Once the child started to be punished with a paddling, Rivera decided to record it on her cellphone—and was devastated by the principal’s actions and verbal abuse.


“It’s illegal in this county to pose corporal punishment on a child in school—it’s illegal, it’s prohibited very clearly and nobody can do it. Not a teacher, not a principal,” said the family’s lawyer, Probinsky, to VICE News. “It’s crazy. A principal isn’t responsible for behavior at home and has no authority to do anything about punishing a child at home.”

The video taken by Rivera shows the principal bending the 6-year-old over a table while the other staff member from the school acting as a translator, identified as Cecilia Self, helps hold the child down. The principal then winds up, pauses to push the student’s shirt up so it doesn’t cushion the paddle, hits the girl three times, and then leans over and berates her in an intimidating tone. 

“I would spank your butt all the time for acting like that,” the principal is heard saying in video and audio acquired by TMZ. “I wish you would try to call the police on me. That’s called being a brat… You better be glad you’re not my daughter.”

In Florida, children can be spanked without committing child abuse under the law. However, only 20 of Florida’s 67 counties allow corporal punishment in schools, according to Probinsky, and Hendry County, where this incident occurred, is not one of the counties. 

In Fox’s statement, she says Rivera consented to her daughter being spanked after hearing about how she’d scratched a computer screen, according to WINK News. But when Rivera talked to the station, she said she was devastated by the paddling and that she recorded it to shine light on corporal punishment. 

“I sacrificed my daughter, so all parents can realize what’s happening in this school,” Rivera said to WINK News in Spanish. “I had never hit her. The hatred with which she [the principal]  hit my daughter, I mean it was a hatred that,… really, I’ve never hit my daughter like she hit her.” 


The family’s lawyer said he still believes what the school did is illegal, especially because Rivera did not understand the punishment being brought on her child and because there was no police officer present while the paddling took place—which is required under law. Even so, Probinsky emphasised that no one can give permission for something that is illegal, and that the child’s mother was misled by school staff. Still, the state disagrees. 

“I think it’s very clear,” Probinsky said. “But the state attorney used their own logic and reached their own conclusion. That’s that.”

The lawyer told VICE News that the Department of Children and Family Services disagrees with the verdict and claims the principal shouldn’t have beaten the child. Legal action is continuing, and Probinsky noted the school district could also impose a penalty on the principal.

“That’s in their hands,” he said. “They can’t charge her with a crime, but should her license be affected, should she have some other penalty? That’s their decision.”,


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