JASPER COUNTY, Ga. — Video of a kindergarten student being paddled by his principal at a Georgia school is causing an uproar on social media.
Shana Perez took the video of her son at Jasper County Primary School on Wednesday morning. It shows the kindergartener struggling and screaming as administrators try to paddle him.
“I know it was horrible at the time. When I went back and actually watched the video, I was in tears,” Perez said. “He was crying. Holding his hands over his butt, trying to get away. Wanting his mommy."
Perez says she gave verbal consent allowing her son to be paddled, because she felt like she didn’t have any other choice. She claims if she had not allowed the paddling, her son would have been suspended, and she could have faced jail time for truancy.
"There's no way I can express how sad or how I felt about watching him be treated like that. I didn't realize at that moment how they basically abused him,” she said.
Perez has already been arrested once this year after her 5-year-old son missed 18 days of school. She says he missed the days because of tests for possible cancer, but Jasper County Sheriff Donnie Pope could not confirm that, and the school system would not comment.
Perez says the principal led her to believe she'd be back behind bars if she didn't agree to the paddle.
“If he gets suspended, I'm going to be arrested for truancy. If he misses another day, I'll be arrested. She never denied that. She never told me anything otherwise,” she said.
But Pope says that’s not true.
“There was no coercion on their part. We confirmed the school did not tell her that,” Pope said.
Perez says her son was being punished for spitting at a fellow student.
“He's five. He's not the best child. He's probably worse than some other people's children. It's not the way we're raising him. We haven't raised him to be bad,” Perez said.
The superintendent issued a brief statement online saying the district is not allowed to comment on the specifics of the incident but is investigating.
“The Jasper County School District is aware of the video released by Ms. Perez. Unfortunately, the District is barred by State and Federal law from commenting about the specifics of this incident. The District respects every student's right to privacy. However, we can speak generally about the District's code of conduct which allows corporal punishment as one of the consequences for behavior. That code of conduct is provided to all parents. When corporal punishment is used, it is with parental consent. The District is investigating the incident and looking into its' discipline policies at this time.”
Pope watched the video and said there is nothing illegal.
"There was no criminal activity that took place. What we confirmed is there was permission. There was consent given by the parent to discipline the child, and the school board has a policy for corporal punishment, and everything was followed,” Pope said.
Perez says she now knows she shouldn’t have given consent.
"To be honest, if I could go back, I would grab him up and say, ‘No. You can't paddle him. Just go ahead and take me to jail,’” Perez said.
Perez and her son plan to meet with school administrators on Friday.