While there’s been a lot of talk lately about whether spanking is still an appropriate disciplinary measure, would you let a teacher or principal ever take a paddle to your child in order to reprimand their behavior? What would you do if they did?
As per CBS News’ reporting, a Florida principal is now on “administrative leave” after disciplining a six-year-old student by hitting them on the behind with a wooden paddle. The child’s mother — who was present for the beating and who the outlet noted is an “undocumented” non-English speaker — was the one who secretly recorded the troubling video after noticing that there were no surveillance cameras in the principal’s office upon initially walking in.
Sharing clearer details, CBS’ lead national correspondent David Begnaud explained that “The mom said she didn’t understand what was happening and out of fear, she did not intervene — that’s when she started recording on her phone.” As further explained, a Spanish-speaking assistant was the person who’d originally called the mother into the school after telling her that she needed to pay $50 dollars in order to repair a computer screen that her child had damaged. According to the report, when the mother arrived at the school to pay the money, she had no idea that she would also be witnessing her child receive the type of corporal punishment she did.
Principal Melissa Carter at Central Elementary School in Clewiston, Florida is the woman seen doing the spanking in the video. She can be heard saying “Put your hands down!” and “Don’t do it again!” to the child as the 6-year-old is heard crying. A “clerk” at the school, Cecilia Self, is also seen in the video “holding the child’s hands down.” Towards the end of the clip, Clark is heard saying to the child — who’s still in tears — “If your mom wants to come to come up to the school and spank you, and we can watch, then that’s going to happen.”
In a translation of what the mother — who didn’t want to be identified — told CBS News about the incident, she said, “The hatred with which she hit my daughter, I mean it was a hatred that, really, I’ve never hit my daughter like she hit her. I had never hit her –” she said, trailing off into tears as she recalled what happened. “I sacrificed my daughter, so all parents can realize what’s happening in this school.” Tragically, the outlet shared that she felt she could intervene as her child was being beaten because of her undocumented status.
According to their report, while 20 out of the 67 counties in Florida allow the form of discipline, corporal punishment is actually illegal in Hendry county — the one where the incident took place.
The mother’s lawyer, Brent Probinsky, spoke with CBS News about the incident and argued, “This is child abuse. She [Clark] should be charged with a crime and suffer those consequences.” According to him, the state attorney has now begun investigating the situation.
Speaking with Madame Noire exclusively, award-winning author, journalist, professor, child advocate, and creator of Sparethekids.com Dr. Stacey Patton gave some insight as to what parents need to know about the disciplinary practice happening in schools across the country.
“So many people are shocked to learn that corporal punishment is still legal in public schools in 19 states and legal in private and charter schools in all but two states,” Dr. Patton shared. “These scenes have been going down in America’s classrooms despite decades of research on the harms of hitting children. Schools are supposed to be places that teach good citizenship, cooperation, critical thinking, and communication skills. Violence of this kind poisons a school’s climate and inhibits learning. How can students take in new information if they are subjected to this kind of coercion and violence?”
Poignantly, she added, “The fact that this is yet another white female teacher subjecting a Brown child to violence speaks volumes about how racism is infused into this nation’s pedagogy. And folks wonder why we see the kinds of disparate outcomes in achievement between children of color and their white peers. It’s time to finally rid our schools of this medieval practice and violent teachers like this woman whose windup seemed driven by old unpurged ancestral impulses.”
To see CBS News’ full video report, click here.