State attorney: No charges in paddling of students

Pinemount Elementary School teacher not charged after physically reprimanding students

LAKE CITY, Fla. – Parents in Columbia County are upset after the State Attorney's Office ruled that a teacher who was paddling their children won't be punished.

News4Jax went to Lake City Friday night and spoke to the parents who said their children were paddled by a kindergarten teacher at Pinemount Elementary School.

The teacher is not being named because she was not charged with a crime.

"She battered our child, physically assaulted our child, I don't care where it was. Our kid was beat by this woman, she was assaulted," said Pinemount Elementary parent Kenneth Chesser.

News4Jax also spoke with the Columbia County State Attorney Jeff Siegmeister, who said his hands were tied on charges against the teacher.

"This is not discretionary act of not filing charges, I am just not able to file charges. There is not a legal violation of the law," said Siegmeister. "I do understand the parents are upset, but I don't have the grounds to file against the teacher for criminal charges."

In May, students complained to their parents that a teacher hit them with a ruler, sat them in a dark closet and repeatedly used those tactics to discipline her 5-, 6- and 7-year-old students. Parents weren't OK with the situation then, and are still not OK with it.

"I feel like we were all wronged, all these kids were wronged, this is a classroom full of kindergarteners, there are 5- and 6-year-olds. Now (they) feel like, 'Every year I go to school, I will be hit or out in a closet. I will be tortured by my teacher,'" said parent Katherine Lindblade.

"With this many kids, I really don't think this is made up or a lie, or the story fabricated. I don't. Something needs to be done," said parent Jamie Guerra.

"I certainly understand parents are upset, they did give permission, policies were violated. I expect discipline to take place through the school board, but it is not a crime," said Siegmeister.

Seigmesiter said he doesn't object to parents complaints, and said he, like the parents, has to rely on the school system to handle it.

"I guess I could have told them what they wanted to hear, file charges that would be dismissed, but honestly that would be against the oath I took," said Siegmeister.

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