Hendry County principal at center of controversial paddling video reappointed to the job

Published: June 15, 2021 12:15 PM EDT
Updated: June 15, 2021 10:50 PM EDT

The principal at the center of a controversial video showing a child being paddled will remain in her position despite Florida Department of Education finding probable cause to justify sanctions against her Florida educator certificate, including other possible penalties.

The Hendry County School Board approved the entire agenda item for personnel for the next school year Tuesday, including Melissa Carter as principal at Central Elementary School in Clewiston.

Carter was seen on video paddling a 6-year-old child while the child’s mother recorded the incident. It occurred April 13 after the child damaged a computer, according to the police report.

Paddling children in Florida is not illegal, with the state leaving it up to each county on how to discipline students. However, it is against the Hendry County District Schools’ own policy.

In May, the State Attorney’s Office found Carter did not commit a crime in a memo it released.

The school board’s decision was made just hours after Florida Department of Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran, in a letter dated for Tuesday, said he found probable cause for sanctions against Carter, with penalties that could include reprimand, fine, probation, restriction of the scope of practice, suspension not to exceed five years, revocation not to exceed 10 years or permanent revocation of her educator certificate.

According to a document the family’s lawyer provided to WINK News, the Florida Department of Children and Families recommended, “Carter have no contact with young and vulnerable children in an official capacity. Her actions were inappropriate and lead to significant injury to a child. Although a parent was present, the action taken by the school faculty member presented as excessive and should not be tolerated.”

DCF would not confirm its findings with WINK News, only saying the investigation is confidential.

Hendry County Superintendent Michael Swindle said the school board approved the consent agenda without knowing about the letter from DOE or any records from DCF. The superintendent says he hasn’t received any letter and wasn’t aware of any letter. The decision was made based on information from their internal investigation, which has been completed. The school district did not immediately share the outcome of the internal investigation but said it will send it to us through the public records request WINK News filed Tuesday.

WINK News reached out to the attorney representing Principal Melissa Carter for comment and has not received a response at this time.

Click to access 2021.06.15_Carter.pdf