Florida School Principal to Mom of Six-Year-Old Student: 'Your Choice -- $50 or I Beat Your Child'

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

The policy is probably outlined somewhere in the “Welcome To The Hendry County School District” PowerPoint orientation program for parents new to the district.

Here is the promotional video that you can find online:

This is just a truly horrifying story.

A six-year-old girl is said to have caused damage to a school computer screen.  The mother is advised by the school that she will be charged $50.

The news story suggests there was a miscommunication at this point that was potentially caused by a language barrier.  The story suggests that the child’s mother was given an alternative — that the child would be subjected to corporal punishment by the school’s principal, but only in the presence of the mother and a Sheriff’s Department Deputy.  It seems as if the Principal, Melissa Carter, was left with the impression that the parent had opted for corporal punishment rather than pay the $50 fee.  The parent told the authorities that when she arrived to pay the $50 fee, her daughter was already in the principal’s office, and everyone was waiting for the mother.

Everyone except the Deputy Sheriff — no one from the Sheriff’s Office ever arrived.  That’s probably a good thing for the principal because as matters played out on the video taken by the mother with her cell phone, I suspect a Sheriff’s Deputy would have left the school that day with Principal Carter handcuffed in the backseat of the patrol car, on her way to be charged with child abuse.

Realizing what was about to take place, and not seeing any cameras in the office, the mother turned on her cell phone camera to capture the event.  The “purposeful” effort put forth by Principal Carter in swinging the paddle is quite jarring.  Imagine the injuries she would cause if she was swinging a bat or other blunt object with that much force.

As a middle-aged male who grew up in the 1960s with a father who believed in the motto “Spare the rod, spoil the child,” I can say that I recall quite well the pain suffered by this six-year-old girl.

But this is not Principal Carter’s child.  It was not part of her role as an “educator” to make a judgment on the nature or severity of punishment — and this was wholly punitive — to mete out to a six-year-old student for damaging school property.  Make the parent pay for the damage or suspend the child for careless or intentional behavior — fine. But to beat a child in the manner in which she did should be dealt with by the criminal justice system.

Hendry County is located in south Florida between Miami and the Gulf Coast and is one of the more sparsely populated counties in Florida with only 40,000 total residents.

Just to clarify the sarcasm in the opening sentences above, the Hendry County School District specifically prohibits the use of corporal punishment for purposes of school discipline.  This raises the obvious question as to why Principal Carter has what is clearly a “paddle” designed to engage in corporal punishment in an elementary school.

Maybe the little girl’s mother provides us with a hint at the answer to that question:

The woman went to the school to pay the fee, but she was taken to the principal’s office instead where she found her daughter, Carter and Self, but no deputy.

“My daughter was already in the office,” the woman said. “The principal started to scream.”

The woman looked around and started to get nervous.

“There are no cameras,” she said. “What are we doing in this place? My daughter and I, alone.”

So she did what she thought was her only option and hid her phone in her purse and set it to record.

“Nobody would have believed me,” the mother said. “I sacrificed my daughter, so all parents can realize what’s happening in this school.”

I’m not sure I buy the “I sacrificed my daughter” part.  If that were actually true it would call into question her fitness as a parent.  But her comment does seem to suggest that this might be an ongoing problem at the school, but one that was not widely known to enough parents.

Such “lack of awareness” seems to no longer be a problem — for everyone except Principal Carter.