Willie Richardson / May 7, 2021

‘To Beat, or Not to Beat?’ Is the Question

Corporal punishment in one Florida school has someone in trouble — the principal.

Welcome to the Sunshine State, where it’s not only hot outside, but at Central Elementary School, it got pretty heated in the principal’s office. The principal, Melissa Carter, put some heat in the seat of a first-grader due to insubordination and having “damaged a school computer.” Now, before you parents get all hot under the collar, let’s bring this into context from my mid-1980s elementary perspective.

I don’t know about you, but when I was in first grade, I remember being the teacher’s pet, repeating the Pledge of Allegiance, carving out pumpkins, and playing on the monkey bars. We didn’t have computers in my first-grade class to vandalize, but I know for sure if I had done any damage to anything that didn’t belong to me, I would be disciplined for it. My assistant principal’s name was Mr. Strong, and you can imagine just by his last name what time it was. He carried a big paddle with the words “Dr. Feel Good” inscribed across it with one hole in the middle. Whew! The man stood at least 6'3" and his shoulders were wide. His voice was as deep as thunder and his walk was slow and steady.

Nonetheless, I knew he loved us and wanted to see us reach our fullest potential. One day, all the boys got paddled for something stupid we did in the cafeteria. Here I was, getting my first corporal punishment experience with all the boys in my class. I watched Mr. Strong swing that paddle so hard that it made my best friend, Marcus, jump over the chair like a track star jumping hurdles. You can laugh — it’s funny! I laughed until it was my turn. I was last, and I took it like a man.

Well, Hendry County isn’t like Shelby County in the ‘80s. It’s 2021, and children in general are more free to do what they want without consequences. I would have been nodding in agreement if my six-year-old daughter was being paddled for damaging school property, but this isn’t about me. The Florida principal may be facing criminal charges for heating the girl’s seat.

Video captured the corporal punishment — which some districts in Florida permit, but not in Hendry County — and went viral on the Internet.

What are the details?

Again, the unnamed child “damaged a school computer,” and the child’s mother was called to the school to pay a $50 fee for damages to the property. The unnamed mother was escorted to the principal’s office, but due to a language barrier didn’t fully understand what was happening. The mother recorded the incident while hiding her phone in her purse.

“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,” the woman told a local news station in Spanish. “I had never hit her. There are no cameras. What are we doing in this place? My daughter and I, alone.”

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

Bret Probinsky, an attorney for the family, said that Clewiston police have turned over the case to the state’s district attorney for the 20th Judicial Circuit, who will determine whether to bring charges against the principal.

In a statement to the station, Probinsky said, “That’s aggravated battery. They’re using a weapon that can cause severe physical harm.” Probinsky added, “The child is terrified, she feels vulnerable. There’s nothing she can do in the hands of these adults, who treated her so brutally, savagely, sadistically.”

Wow. I thought I watched a video in which a first-grader was being disciplined by the principal for damaging school property. I didn’t know I was watching a scene from “Nightmare on Elm Street.” But we now live in a nation where corporal punishment is outlawed by parents, police, and principals because they think, as this mother did, that it’s “hatred.”

David Begnaud, lead national correspondent for “CBS This Morning,” shared video of the incident on Twitter and captioned it, “A 6yo child in FL. was beaten by her school principal, in front of her mother, for damage she allegedly caused to a computer. [T]his video is graphic. It’s infuriating, outrageous & shocking & the principal is now under criminal investigation.” The way this description reads, you would have thought there was blood splattered across the room, but that was certainly not the case.

I hope you get the picture that I am for corporal punishment. Discipline works, and American children don’t need another reason to be victims.

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