Pushing for answers from the Hendry County School District after principal caught on video paddling child

Reporter: Val Simpson Writer: Melissa Montoya
Published: Updated:
Video of the paddling was taken by the child’s mother. (Credit: Shared with WINK News)

A demand for answers from people at the top.

The community of Clewiston is outraged after WINK News’ exclusive story showed how a Central Elementary School principal and clerk paddled a 6-year-old student as punishment.

The principal, Melissa Carter, is under investigation by the Clewiston Police Department. The Department of Children and Families is also investigating.

Brent Probinsky, the attorney for the mother of the 6-year-old, said the State Attorney’s Office is reviewing the case to see whether they pursue criminal charges against Carter and Cecilia Self, the clerk in the video.

WINK News asked the school district if Carter still had a job.

The Hendry County School District response is always the same: “No comment.”

Parents with students at Central Elementary School had a mix of reactions.

“The first hit was very unnecessary, very,” said Jocelyn Edwards, whose sister attends Central Elementary School.”It didn’t take all of that.”

The child’s mother recorded the video of Carter striking the little girl with a wooden paddle.

Families WINK News spoke to on Friday wanted to know why the mother didn’t intervene.

“I wouldn’t record your child getting paddled that’s, that’s not right at all,” Edwards said.

The child’s mother told WINK News she felt like she had no choice because of her legal status.

“If I had done it with my own hand, it wouldn’t been bad for me. I don’t know… I’d be in jail,” she told WINK News in Spanish.

Attempts to reach Carter and Self through the school district were unsuccessful.

Self was meant to act as an interpreter for the mother of the child.

But the child’s mother said Self wasn’t accurate.

“I don’t mind discipline with permission but when there’s a language barrier … I worked for the state of Florida for 34 years and we always had an interpreter,” said Ruby Monroe, whose grandson goes to Central Elementary School.

WINK News pressed the school district for answers.

“This is under investigation, we can’t comment,” a district employee told WINK News.

In one instance, WINK News couldn’t get into the building.

WINK News left messages and never heard back from anyone at the school.

The Hendry County School District policy does not condone corporal punishment.

It states: “The superintendent shall designate sanctions for the infractions of rules, excluding corporal punishment.”

One person said they cried when they saw the video.

“I really cried when somebody showed me that I cried because it could’ve been mine, it could’ve been mine,” the person said.

“Me thinking like that’s kind of not right videotape your child,” Edwards said. “It’s supposed to be between you, the principal and your child.”

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