Hendry County principal’s lawyer speaks for first time about paddling controversy


For the first time, we hear from a school principal’s attorney in Clewiston paddling with a child as a punishment.

The video of the paddling was first brought to light by WINK News at the end of April and attracted international attention.

Corporal punishment is legal in Florida, but state law leaves it up to each county to decide. Hendry County School District banned the practice in 2016.

On Friday, we stated that Central Elementary School principal Melissa Carter had filed a complaint stating that the child’s mother illegally recorded the beatings, but the student’s family attorney said it was legal.

WINK News reporter Val Simpson sat down on Monday for an exclusive interview with Carter’s attorney about her side of things.

It’s a hard-to-forget video that shows Carter hitting a 6-year-old student with a wooden paddle. The child’s mother sent us the video. Did she take it in legally?

Carter’s attorney Steven Ramunni said she didn’t.

“If you take things out of context, you can make anything you want to do with them,” he said.

Florida is a two-party consent state, which means you generally cannot record someone’s voice without their permission. Brent Probinsky, the child’s family attorney, told us Friday that there are two exceptions.

“That’s when you think there is a criminal act or evidence of a criminal act, and here it is a battery of that child that the mother took in. Second, if the speakers do not expect privacy, it is not forbidden to include them without their permission, e.g. B. in a public space or in a public place. In this case, we have a public school, not a private institution, ”he explained.

Ramunni said Probinsky misinterpreted the law.

“A right to privacy can exist in many different places. Obviously this was a closed-door disciplinary meeting held under the auspices of the Florida Bylaws, so I would disagree with his assessment, “said Ramunni.

The Hendry County Sheriff’s Office is investigating the child’s mother after the school principal accused her of illegally recording the video. When we spoke to the mother in April, she told us that she felt she was recording the incident because she had no papers. She claims that she did not specifically consent to paddling.

Carter’s attorney said the mother gave her permission, but there is no physical evidence.

“I haven’t seen it all yet … as far as I know there is no personally signed form, but it was the mother who requested the paddling first, and like you when you listen to the entire recording.”

WINK News posted a full transcript of the video online, which was reviewed by three Spanish speakers. Our team found no evidence of the mother’s express consent. We asked Ramunni if ​​a Spanish speaking agent in his office checked the video. He said he read Carter’s affidavit.

Last month, prosecutors decided not to bring charges against Carter. We have asked several times whether the Court of Auditors has the video examined by a Spanish-speaking spokesman, but we have received no response.

Ramunni said he doesn’t think Carter will lose her educational license. Identify the Education and Children and Family departments. We are still waiting for these results.

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