TOWN CREEK, Ala. – An Alabama elementary school principal is accused of excessive paddling of a student last month, officials said.
Datie Priest, who has been at Hazlewood Elementary School in Lawrence County in northern Alabama since July 2020, was placed on administrative leave, WAFF-TV reported.
Priest received a written reprimand on March 23 from Lawrence County Superintendent Jon Bret Smith about the accusations, which included alleged comments made by her about “throat punching” an autistic student, AL.com reported, citing personnel records.
Smith stated in the reprimand letter that Priest paddled a third-grader at Hazlewood on two occasions, according to the website.
“On March 4, 2022, you paddled a third-grader on two occasions,” the letter stated. “Ten licks or more were administered during the first paddling and five licks were administered during the second paddling.”
Smith said “generally three licks” was the maximum allowed.
Alabama state law also requires a student receive a written slip after a paddling, according to WAFF. Smith said the student was not given one. Priest is also accused of not having a witness for the second paddling, WAAY-TV reported.
Smith also cited an incident witnessed by two Hazlewood employees when an autistic student bumped into Priest.
“Your response was very concerning,” Smith wrote, according to AL.com. “At the time, you told the two employees you would ‘throat punch’ the student if he ran into you again.”
Calls to Priest’s cellphone were not answered Friday, AL.com reported.
Priest, whose salary of $91,800 continues to be paid during her leave, is under contract until June 30, Smith said.
Before becoming principal at Hazlewood, Priest worked for 20 years with Decatur City Schools and served as principal at West Decatur Elementary from 2005 to 2016, AL.com reported.
Chris Lewis, an assistant principal at R.A. Hubbard High School, has been named interim principal, Smith said.
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