A Hendry County Florida principal is now on administrative leave after a new video shows her hitting a 6-year-old student with a wooden paddle. The video is hard to watch as the woman hits the child while yelling and berating her for causing $50 worth of damage to a school computer. This is the latest instance where schools, a place where this little girl should be safe and supported, is the place where she was physically and verbally abused. This principal betrayed the trust of this child, her family, and the entire community she was hired to serve.
This video supports the Policy Center’s latest research findings that Black, Indigenous and Girls of Color are punished more often and more harshly than their white counterparts. Corporal punishment is illegal in Hendry County, as it is in 47 Florida counties. The fact that this administration carried out illegal methods of punishments shows the blatant abuse of power and privilege, and personal bias that overshadows even the law. Sadly, we know that Black and brown girls most often receive the harshest punishments from school administrators. It’s a trend that begins early and escalates to suspensions, arrests, and incarcerations.
We can’t ignore the abuse and mistreatment of Black and brown girls in school. We can’t allow generations of cultural conditioning and racism to cloud our view of what this video shows. This video shows a woman abusing a young girl. This video records another instance of an adult hired to keep children safe becoming the perpetrator of abuse, with long-lasting consequences.
School leaders should be held accountable for biases that result in harsher, harmful punishments for Black and brown girls. As the investigation into this incident continues, may these school leaders be held accountable for their abuse of a child, may this little girl find healing, and may Black and brown girls everywhere experience schools where they are safe and protected from abuse of any kind. That’s what we work towards every day. That’s why we will continue to share the stories of girls trapped in unfair, inequitable, and unsafe systems. Their experiences are valuable. Their safety matters. It’s the responsibility of every adult to see that.