Florida State Attorney's Office: 'No evidence' of crime in child school spanking video

Warning graphic: Florida elementary school principal caught on video spanking student with a paddle

A Florida elementary school principal has reportedly been placed on administrative leave as authorities investigate whether or not to charge her for allegedly spanking a student with a paddle

Florida prosecutors have determined that no crime was committed after video circulated of an elementary school principal using a paddle to spank a 6-year-old girl whose mother secretly recorded it on video and alleged battery and child abuse.

Video of the incident shows Central Elementary School Principal Melissa Carter paddling a crying first-grader’s behind and demanding she apologize, improve her behavior and treat her mother better.

“Upon review of the totality of the evidence and the law, it does not appear that any crime was committed by Ms. Carter in this case,” State Attorney Amira D. Fox’s office said in a statement Friday.

A Florida elementary school principal has reportedly been placed on administrative leave as authorities investigate whether or not to charge her for allegedly spanking a student with a paddle
(Probinsky & Cole)

County investigators had previously come to a similar conclusion.


According to a memo signed by Deputy Chief Assistant State Attorney Abraham R. Thornburg, before school employees disciplined the girl, they called her mother, Fabiola Rivera, to explain the incident.

The mother told Cecilia Self, one of the school employees involved in the process, that the first-grader was breaking things at home as well. The mother, who is reportedly undocumented, added that she was scared to spank her daughter because the child threatened to call police and Florida’s Department of Children and Families, according to the memo.

Then the mother asked Self if the school could spank the child for her.

“Ms. Self replied that she would have to physically come to the school, specifically request such discipline, and be present during the spanking if she wished for school staff to do it for her,” the memo reads. “According to both Ms. Carter and Ms. Self, Ms. Rivera then arrived at the school and made that request.”

The mother then sat by as Carter spanked her daughter and secretly recorded it on video with her smartphone, according to the memo.

“At no time during the video of the incident does Ms. Rivera raise any objection to what is taking place, by word or act in any fashion whatsoever, further corroborating the accounts of Ms. Self and Ms. Carter,” the memo reads. “Near the conclusion of the video, as Ms. Rivera is leaving the office, she can clearly be heard saying ‘thank you’ to Ms. Carter and Ms. Self.”

Thornburg concluded that edited clips of the video had been released to local media that “resulted in an incomplete and misleading account of the incident.”


Rivera, who speaks Spanish as a first language, had earlier told county sheriff’s deputies that she had been “confused” by a language barrier and didn’t know what was going on.

Then she told local news station WINK that she recorded the incident “so all parents can realize what’s happening in this school.”

The woman’s lawyer, Brent Probinksy, told NBC 2 his client is undocumented and fears deportation.

Thornburg said that the principal had done nothing criminal and has determined the mother “sanctioned and consented to” spanking.

“A parent has a right to use corporal punishment to discipline their children,” he wrote, “and similarly has the right to consent that others do so on their behalf.”


Furthermore, he added, even if Rivera’s claims of being confused about the process were true, a reasonable person in Carter’s position would not have known that and “would have believed that Ms. Rivera consented to the spanking in the manner it was performed.”

Thornburg made no comment or recommendations about a potential civil case or possible charges against Rivera.

Fox News’ Stephanie Pagones contributed to this report.

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