Last week, I published this story about a Florida elementary school principal who was captured on a cell phone video giving a few forceful “swats” with a paddle across the backside of a six-year-old little girl, while the girl’s mother watched. The video was posted on YouTube, and it was quite disturbing to watch.
I published it under the non-descript headline “$50 or I Beat Your Child”.
I did not mince words with respect to my view on what the videotape showed, and suggested that the principal would be well-advised to retain a criminal defense lawyer.
Well, as Paul Harvey was famous for saying, now it’s time “For The Rest of the Story.”
The prosecuting attorney for Hendry County announced on Friday that the principal will not face any criminal charges for her conduct. Corporal punishment is permissible under the law in Florida, although it is prohibited by the school district where the principal worked.
But the reason the swats across the backside are considered by the prosecutor as having been corporal punishment and not “child abuse” is… because the girl’s mother asked the principal to discipline the child on the mother’s behalf.
Apparently, the girl had broken a computer screen at school, and the principal called the mother to discuss having the mother pay something towards the cost of repair.
The mother told the principal that the little girl had been breaking things at home as well, but when the mother threatened to punish the girl for her actions, the six-year-old would threaten to “DCF” her — a reference to the Florida Department of Children and Families. The mother told the Principal she had not been able to discipline the girl for her misbehavior out of fear she would be turned in to the police, so she asked if the Principal would discipline the girl on her behalf.
The Principal agreed to do so, but only if the mother was present for the event.
Something not noticed in the video posted on the internet — which may have been doctored in some small way — is that the mother tells the principal “Thank You” when the episode ended. From the totality of evidence that was gathered, the prosecutor concluded that the mother’s failure to attempt to intervene was not “acquiescence” on her part, but rather was an expression of actual consent.
Police who interviewed the child said her version was consistent with the conclusion that the mother had asked the Principal to act on her behalf.
Initially, the mother told the police that she was confused about what was supposed to take place when she arrived at the school, and she attributed her confusion to a language barrier. But she also told the police that she “sacrificed” her daughter so that she could videotape the episode for the benefit of the community. The prosecutor noted that saying she “sacrificed” her daughter suggested knowledge ahead of time about what was to take place, and was inconsistent with the claim that she was confused and surprised when she arrived.
The Law & Crime story suggests that the mother refused to cooperate with the police as they were investigating the principal.
Because the mother consented to the paddling, there would be no misdemeanor battery charges.
There would be no felony battery charges either, as the “paddling” was deemed insufficient to cause great bodily harm.
So. now you know the rest of the story.