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Florida Principal Who Paddled Girl, 6, Was in the Right: Authorities

State attorney declines to prosecute
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted May 10, 2021 2:52 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Florida school principal caught on video paddling a 6-year-old girl did not break any laws, the Florida State Attorney found after conducting a review of the Clewiston incident. No charges will be filed, CBS 12 reports. Central Elementary School staffers say the girl purposely damaged school computer equipment. One staff member gave a statement claiming that when the girl's mother was contacted by phone about the incident, she said her daughter was also damaging items at home, but that she was "afraid to discipline her by spanking, because her daughter threatens to call the police and [the Department of Children and Families]." She says the mother then asked that school staffers spank her daughter, CNN reports. The staffer says she then told the mother she'd need to come to the school to ask in person for the spanking to be carried out, and then remain in the room while it happened, and that the mother did just that.

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In a memo, Deputy Chief Assistant State Attorney Abraham R. Thornburg says that upon review of the incident, it does appear "the child's mother sanctioned and consented to the spanking of her daughter as discipline for misbehavior," and that on the video of the incident, which was secretly recorded by the mother, she can be heard thanking staffers afterward. The memo notes that per Florida law, parents have the right to spank their children or authorize others to do so for them and spanking is not considered child abuse. The office also found no evidence of "great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement." The mother, however, filed a police report after the incident, and her attorney says she was confused about the school's policy and was scared when she went in and witnessed the spanking. He says a flawed legal analysis was used, and that the spanking was indeed illegal. (Read more Florida stories.)

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