Lawrence County principal placed on leave following paddling incident

Published: Apr. 11, 2022 at 10:06 PM CDT
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LAWRENCE CO., Ala. (WAFF) - A Lawrence County elementary school principal is on leave for paddling a child too much.

In a letter obtained by WAFF from the district’s attorney, the principal of Hazelwood Elementary is accused of using a wooden paddle on a child ten times in a row.

Corporal punishment is legal in the state of Alabama, meaning using paddling as a form of punishment is allowed. But there is a line, which Lawrence County Schools Superintendent Jon Bret Smith says was crossed.

A letter sent to Hazelwood Principal Dr. Datie Priest accuses her of paddling a third-grade student ten times in a row one time and five times in a row during a separate incident.

According to our news partners at the Decatur Daily, Dr. Smith has said no more than three licks at a time is allowed.

The letter goes on to say Priest told Lawrence County School board members about the paddling on March 11.

She was then placed on detached duty.

Smith says Priest later told him and another supervisor that the child was given a choice of quote, “two licks by his teacher or ten by me and it’s my personal belief that he would not take a paddling from a white teacher. End quote.

WAFF reached out to the vice president for the NAACP in Alabama, Bobby Diggs.

Diggs tells us the NAACP recommended Priest for the principal position and stands by her, as these are accusations.

“The NAACP remains perplexed that the accusations against Priest were in her personnel file but accusations against Ron Rikard (principal at East Lawrence High School) were not in his file at the central office,” said Diggs. “It is in our opinion that the superintendent is being bias{ed} and discriminatory in the treatment of the two principals.”

Smith says he cannot comment on personnel issues.

State law also requires a student receive a written slip after a paddling. Smith says the student was not given one. The letter includes a few other accusations including leaving work early and mismanaging funds.

Priest is currently on paid administrative leave. However, the school district may not renew her contract, according to the Decatur Daily.

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